University of Vigo (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 1284-1290
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Following the implantation of the European Higher Education Area (EHEA), the University of Vigo has just established a revision of the Telecommunication Engineering degree that will be in force from September 2010 on. We have participated in the redesign of the Computer Science courses, with special focus on the one devoted to Operating Systems (OS).
For many years, OS courses had focused on principles arisen before the era of consumer electronics, mainly related to centralized processing in mainframes, embedded devices and desktop computers. Computer networks were always taught separately, at most with a few conceptual links related to the client-server computing model that became ubiquitous with the development of the OS called Unix. However, recent advances around such terms as peer-to-peer, mobility, grid and cloud have definitely blurred former frontiers between computing and networking. Thus, in defining the theoretical framework for a new course, we felt it was necessary to update the OS notion to embrace newer ideas, promoting a vision of computer networks as complex systems with distributed resources of potentially many different kinds. So, we have designed a list of topics that surveys the functionalities that may be assigned to an OS from a holistic perspective. The survey will be presented along with plenty of examples to illustrate those functionalities in different domains. This way, the students will get an overview of what is working in the real world and what evolutions can be expected for the near future.
The overview will be the starting point for the students to gain insight into the realization of the different operating system features, for which we have completely redesigned the former "practical part" of the course. Up to now, this part merely represented 45 hours of teaching, during which the students would tamper with educational tools designed specifically to illustrate cases of each one of the concepts explained in class. This way, they could hardly end up with a unifying vision of an OS, but there was very little room for improvement with the former legal framework. Fortunately, the EHEA does not define degrees and courses in terms of teaching hours, but rather "hours of student work". In the case of the OS course, this definition yields, for each student, 37.5 hours of individual practical work plus 50 hours of practical work in groups. As a result, now we have plenty of time to arrange more ambitious, enlightening and motivating practical tasks for our students. Our plan is to let the students make experiments with the implementation of a real, open-source OS to gain insight into the realization of its features. Some of the 37.5 hours of individual work will be spent in familiarizing the students with the system. The remaining hours, plus the whole of the group force will later be put to designing and implementing enhancements to the features offered by the latest release of the chosen OS, following the guidelines of problem based learning.
Even though the new OS course will be first taught during the 2012-2013 academic year, we have already defined a number of projects that would make be state-of-the-art in 2010-2011, far beyond the raw concepts studied during all these years. Running a poll among the students who passed the current OS course this year, we found it encouraging that 92% of them did tick off the option "it is a pity we could not do these things already this year".
European Higher Education Area, Computer Science, Project-Based Learning.