1 Moscow State University of Technology «STANKIN» (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
2 Federal State-Funded Institute of Science Institute for Design Problems in Microelectronics of Russian Academy of Sciences (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
3 Gazprom Corporate Institute (RUSSIAN FEDERATION)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 3956-3961
ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2017.1054
Conference name: 10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2017
Location: Seville, Spain
Modern IT education requires universities to develop various student competencies, allowing alumni easily apply the acquired knowledge and skills at their workplaces. The most efficient way to train skills is practice e.g. laboratory experiments. However, real hands-on experiments have significant costs in time and money, which are proportional to the number of students. One of the ways to solve this problem is virtualization. While decreasing costs and risks, a virtual lab removes distance barriers and enables equal access for different students groups.

Moscow State University of Technology "STANKIN" started replacing hands-on labs with virtual experiments in networking courses in 2011. This strategy enabled increasing the part of labs in the curriculum and led to an average improvement of students’ network engineering skills. However, the feedback from alumni discovered a serious lack of real network equipment usage experience.

A deeper research revealed, that virtual laboratory exercises are as effective as real ones while developing skills, but in some cases prevent students from gaining confidence in ability to use them themselves. Thus, the objective emerged to include some real hands-on labs in the virtual laboratory curriculum. This objective has no importance in training skills, but is crucial for the development of a confident ability to apply these skills in practice.

The new approach to the curriculum configuration is the combination of virtual (85%) and real hands-on (15%) labs. It combines all the advantages of virtual experiments and enables every student to receive real network device configuration and maintenance experience. Such a hybrid approach negates the core disadvantage of virtual lab usage at limited costs, but leaves the question of the most efficient real and virtual curriculum elements unresolved.

The obvious way to plan the required interchange of real and virtual lab exercises is the plain repeat of a successful virtual experiment on the real equipment during the next class. But the most efficient solution was found in another way of planning, when different groups of students perform different tasks in real, while others carry out the same tasks in virtual.

As a result of such a curriculum reorganization the professional confidence of the students ability to apply their skills greatly increased. The authors estimate nearly total removal of the problem by the future alumni.
Virtual experiment, abilities training, curriculum planning, confidence, hands-on practice.