AN EXPERIENCE WITH FLIPPED LEARNING IN THE COMPUTER NETWORKS LABORATORY

J.M. Villalon, T. Olivares, M.C. Ruiz, P. Cuenca

Universidad de Castilla la Mancha (SPAIN)
Computer Networks is a course taught in the first year of the Computer Engineering Degree which consists of two different parts: the theoretical and the practical contents. Although the contents are closely related, both parts are explained and evaluated independently. The professors involved in this course have always observed an important problem of comprehension, realization and participation in the practical part which is done in the laboratory using real network interconnection devices. The origin of the problem lies in the student's lack of interest in reading the practical script which is essential for a successful practical execution. For several years we have tried to encourage the students to prepare the practices before attending the practical session, but the reality was that the students tried to do the practice without a knowledge of the devices or the procedure to be followed. Therefore, the teacher was forced to explain the main concepts of the practice before the students began to do it. This spent time of the lab session, which meant that the students did not have enough time to finish the practice completely. Consequently, we saw in the final test that the students had not understood the main ideas. This situation could not be solved despite all our failed attempts to motivate the student to read the scripts, so we were aware that a radical change was necessary.

Last year, we decided to use some flipped learning tools to help us solve this problem. We decided to use the Cisco Packet Tracer simulator as a tool for individual study. The student has to do a previous task using this simulator before attending the lab session. This weakly task executed in the simulator was very similar to the practice that the students had to perform in the laboratory using the real devices, Cisco routers and switches. The realization of these tasks was mandatory.

This paper presents our experience in the implementation of this methodology. We have compared the marks obtained by the students this last year in which we have used this flipped learning tool with the marks obtained by the students in previous years. The results obtained were very good, even better than expected. The student done the packet Tracer tasks at home and the lab session was more enjoyable, participative and successful. As a result, the percentage of students who have passed the practical part has been increased from 74,1% in the previous years to 92,9%. In addition, the marks achieved by the students were much better; 86% of the students achieved a mark higher of 8 out of 10. In previous years, this percentage was lower than 25%.