New Cloud-Based Learning Technologies Yield Unprecedented Opportunities to Sharpen Skills

By Dr. Keith Morneau, Dean of Computer and Information Science

The pandemic has been a challenging time for both faculty and students. Yet when challenges are met, positive outcomes emerge. Throughout ECPI University’s Computer and Information Science (CIS) program, that has certainly been the case. Like many of our colleagues in the University, CIS faculty members had been developing and incorporating new forms of learning technologies prior to COVID, but the constraints of remote learning accelerated that process.

These days, seemingly everything is moving to the Cloud and that has generated numerous opportunities for the CIS program. Most notably, it has created new avenues for students to enhance their skills in a virtual, hands-on environment. While we understand that for many students, nothing can replace good ole fashion in-person lab work, we are now providing the next best thing with simulations in cloud-based environments.

For online students, this is a game changer. We can now deliver some of the most immersive, interactive content available.

Even when the pandemic subsides and everyone returns to campus, our students will still enjoy the benefits of this technology with opportunities to practice exceptionally realistic drills that can reinforce what they learn in the classroom. For online students, this is a game changer. We can now deliver some of the most immersive, interactive content available. Here are some examples of what we have been able to accomplish thus far:

  • In CIS 101, we use a product called Test Out which provides students with the ability to build and troubleshoot computer hardware and software virtually
  • In CIS 150, students learn how to configure wireless devices in a virtual house
  • In CIS 225, students learn how to wire up racks of routers and switches in a virtual classroom lab
  • In the networking classes, we use packet tracer to allow students to design, connect, and configure networks
  • To learn numbering systems and conversions, we use Pirate Payout, a game designed for students to practice their binary-to-decimal conversions.

Students have responded favorably to these simulations and we will continue to expand their use through our Virtual City. The pandemic has pushed more and more organizations to the Cloud and that will likely continue, pandemic or not. At ECPI University, we prepare students to work in these Cloud-based work environments and will continue to use different technologies to provide live networked environments virtually such as:

  • Utilizing NETLAB+ and Xendesktop
  • Linux and Windows environments and other programming environments
  • Learning on Demand (LOD) to provide real networked environments in virtual machines
  • Azure, AWS, and VMWare environments
  • Utilizing Eccouncil ilabs for pen testing and hacking labs
  • A Cyberrange platform that provides students with opportunities to practice their skills for competitions and the workplace

These are just some of the tools we utilize in CIS to help prepare students for the modern IT and cybersecurity environments. Creative uses of these technologies, and how to deliver them effectively to students, has been a heightened priority since the pandemic began. We will continue to expand their use and look for creative ways to engage them in the increasingly complex IT environments where they will work.  

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