Using a Network Simulation Tool to Engage Students in Active Learning Enhances Their Understanding of Complex Data Communications Concepts.

Goldstein, C., Leisten, S., Stark, K. and Tickle, A.

    Computer networking concepts can be difficult to understand and teach as they frequently relate to complex and dynamic processes which are not readily visible or intuitive and are therefore problematic to conceptualise. Consequently teachers often incorporate simulation or visualisation tools to support the learning process, but often in a superficial way and without evaluating their effectiveness. To tackle this issue we designed the practical sessions in a 2nd year undergraduate networking unit to use a network simulation tool, Packet Tracer , to facilitate active learning by providing an analytical, problem solving and evaluation framework. To then evaluate the effectiveness of using Packet Tracer in this way, students were assessed before and after participating in one specific practical session. Measured results showed a marked improvement in student understanding of the topic presented (VLANs). We show that the use of the simulation tool, not merely to demonstrate concepts, but to also provide feedback and guidance enhanced deep learning.
Cite as: Goldstein, C., Leisten, S., Stark, K. and Tickle, A. (2005). Using a Network Simulation Tool to Engage Students in Active Learning Enhances Their Understanding of Complex Data Communications Concepts.. In Proc. Seventh Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE2005), Newcastle, Australia. CRPIT, 42. Young, A. and Tolhurst, D., Eds. ACS. 223-228.
pdf (from crpit.com) pdf (local if available) BibTeX EndNote GS