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DESIGN AND EVALUATION OF A SIMULATOR FOR SUBJECTS ABOUT OPTICAL NETWORKS

The new challenges of the European university education recommend a teaching methodology focused on learning and practical experience. In this context, the use of practical tools when teaching subjects related to engineering can lead to better understanding of the concepts of the subject and, therefore, an increment in the academic performance of the students.

Optical communications (i.e., those systems that allow the transmission of information by means of light and, typically, by using an optical fibre) are the best alternative to develop high-bandwidth communication networks. Hence, telecommunications engineering bachelor degrees generally include one or even more subjects on this topic. For instance, at the University of Valladolid (Spain), two different subjects related to optical communications are currently taught in their bachelor degrees. The first one is an introduction to optical fibre systems while the second mainly deals with optical communication networks. Due to the high cost of the equipment of such networks, the practical sessions of the subject related with optical networks are based on the use of a simulator, which is one of the most used techniques when real optical networks are designed. Nowadays, there are some commercial software alternatives to simulate these networks. However, the current economic crisis makes that the use of freeware software is preferable as the software licence is free without any time restriction.

At the University of Valladolid, an internal project was carried out in order to develop a freeware simulator of optical networks. That simulator uses OMNeT++, i.e., an extensible, modular, component-based C++ simulation library and framework. In the first stage of its design and implementation, it was developed to simulate dynamic Wavelength Routed Optical Networks (WRON). In those networks, optical circuits, or lightpaths, are established and released in the network as a response to user requests. Moreover, two different lab exercises were planned with the simulator and they were tested in real classes during the last semester.

This paper will present the main components and characteristics of the developed simulator as well as a set of lab exercises that can be done using that software. Then, the student feeling about its use was measured by means of a survey that the students took when they finished the labs with the developed software. Therefore, this paper will also present the results of that survey.