Network Support Technologies Case Study
Project Scope, Schedule, and Budget
Type and Configuration of the Network
User Policies and Legal Issues
Life of Equipment
Providing an Online Radio Service
Information is now growing at speeds never thought imaginable. Today’s world of Information Technology (IT) has provided the dynamic platform in which exponentially growing information resources emerge. This complex arena of knowledge management provides tremendous advantages to modern society. It allows individuals greater and faster access to resources that, in turn, can be used to facilitate more accurate decision making. This is especially true in the realm of academia.
Avington College’s students will reap tremendous benefits from providing a blended e-learning solution. E-learning provides many inherent advantages through its method of delivery. Digital content can be implemented nearly as fast as it is created with virtually no risk of obsolescence. When e-learning is used in a class room setting, it can be blended along with other teaching methods to enhance more traditional approaches. Therefore, this flexibility allows more options in design than more conventional approaches. Curriculums can be customized to fit users with any aptitude level and can be various combinations of multimodal content to ensure efficiencies in retention.
A study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found that students generally performed better when instructed through e-learning course than face-to-face classes (Means, et al.) Another study found that the rate of growth for e-learning is twelve point eight percent over the next five years (Adkins, 2010). If you consider the results of these two studies together, then it is easy to speculate that e-learning development will continue to esculate until it is commonplace in the mainstream acedemic institutions. In fact, a majority of modern classroom settings already have the technological capabilities in place and incorporate some form of blended e-learning functions into there curiculum; open source software such as Moodle (www.moodle.org) provides a low cost solution for a blended e-learning educational experience software platform package.
Project Scope, Schedule, and Budget
The project will consist of purchasing fifty computers (forty desktops and ten laptops) and installing them in two separate class rooms. The desktops will need a LAN configuration and the laptops will require wireless network adapters. The hardware and network configuration must meet the requirements to accommodate uses such as:
Hosting virtual learning environments
Accessing a wide range of educational resources
Hosting programming environments including Flash or an alternative
Running image and audio editing software
Running office software
A majority of the staff has already acquired sufficient skills to begin using the computers in the classroom however the project is expected to require some training of instructors as well as administrative staff; especially in the regards to classroom collaboration software. However, it should also be noted, that a group of instructors wish to use the new technology to set up a virtual classroom in the Half Life.
The project will also require two separate servers. One server will be the dedicated first layer server that will host all of the academic and administrative data. This server is mandatory for the project’s functionality. A second, optional, server will be used to host an online radio station. This station will provide music and talk radio for a few hours daily. The second server and radio station platform will be listed separately in the proposal so that it can be decided upon independent of the primary project.
The project schedule should be designed around the school’s summer break. This way the project will not cause any interruption, downtime, or alteration to the students’ academic lesson plans. In addition, this time is ideal because it will allow the most efficient scheduling of training efforts. The project schedule should also allow sufficient time for the instructors to become acquainted with the new system and also have time to prepare course material in the new system for use in the next semester.
Type and Configuration of the Network
The ideal network type and configuration should be judged against five separate criteria (Moberg, 1999). These criteria can be thought of as different dimensions to the planning process. These dimensions are physical, protocol, management, application, and cultural. Each dimension plays an important role in the choosing the type of network and also the configuration necessary to achieve the desired results. Each of these dimensions will be discussed in regards to the proposed network that is included in this project proposal.
Since Avington College will be connecting less than two hundred devices then a small campus design will be sufficient to accommodate the requirements (David Hucaby, 2010). This will allow the college to save money by providing three network layers within one multilayer switch. Although this could create issues with expansion later on, Avington College’s requirements fall well within the multilayered switch and therefore this method is recommended. Further, since the systems life cycle has an expiration date that will most likely outpace the growth of the college, this strategy is optimal. The illustration provided below represents a network map with a collapsed core.
The hardware and software expenses will comprise a bulk of the expense to the projects budget. Therefore this represents of the most aspects to the project’s planning. It is necessary to balance the needed capabilities with the project’s budget and try to pinpoint the optimal level of hardware and software investment. Customer support and the vendor’s level of service also play an important role since the college intends only to employ one network technician.
Because of the fore mentioned criteria, the recommendation for the hardware vendor will be Dell Computers. Not only does Dell have an incredible amount of experience dealing with academic institutions, but it also has well established customer support and service operating procedures. Although Dell does charge a premium when compared to lower cost out-of-the-box vendors, partnering with Dell will provide the network technician with the needed support to lower the total cost of ownership of the equipment.
Dell’s desktop line that meets the requirements of the college is the OptiPlex line. The OptiPlex offers different tower sizes and also several options of hardware configurations. The tower sizes range from mini-tower that can be mounted on a stand for space saving design however the stand must be purchased separately and adds additional costs. The larger tower design is the most economical however adds a bunch of bulk to the computer area. Therefore, it is recommended that the college uses the OptiPlex 380 for its desktop computers. The OptiPlex 380 is much smaller than the larger tower and can sit on a desk under the monitor which still offers the space saving advantages without having to purchase the separate stand. This will offer the college some flexibility in classroom design layouts.
For the laptops, the Dell Latitude E6410 is recommended. It offers a similar set of advantages as the desktop choice. Dell boasts that this model offers the longest product life cycle of all of its notebook models; which consequently fits the college’s requirements. The notebooks also come standard with the required wireless network adapters (802.11 a/b/g/n). They also include enough processing power to match their desktop counterparts and therefore the instructor should have no issues with running the same software as the students.
The main server recommendation is the Dell PowerEdge T110 running Windows Server 2008 R2, Standard Academic Edition. This server has enhanced virtual desktop infrastructure based on previous versions which will allow the college access to VDI desktops maintained in server that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. This server should provide the features that will meet the requirements of the school for years to come and allow instructors and students increased communication potential.
Software, similar to hardware, must walk a fine line between price and capabilities. The recommendations for software must be considered independently as there are advantages and disadvantages for each type of software package. For example, open source operating systems can be acquired for free but students are more likely to be familiar with either a Windows or Mac OS. Additionally, these are the two they are more likely to encounter after graduation and therefore increased familiarity with the latest OS should benefit the students.
The recommendations for the software to be purchased through and installed by Dell will be the OS (Windows 7 Professional) and also the office software package (Microsoft Office 2007). Although there are free open source office software programs (Open Office), Microsoft’s Office software package is the most widely used office package in the world. Investing in this package will also act to support all of the educational requirements of all the classes offered since they are not class specific and can be used for a multitude of primary class functions.
The recommendation for the classroom collaboration software however, is to use the free open source software from Moodle. The best in class solution to classroom collaboration in the market today is more than likely Blackboard which is utilized in classrooms nationwide. However, when comparing the features of Moodle and Blackboard, there isn’t anything too significant and is deemed worth the expense of paying for Blackboard when Moodle is free of charge.
Moodle is known as a Course Management System (CMS) that offers modules for most aspects of classroom communication. For example, after logging into Moodle a student can have to full access to grades, files, announcements, and class collaboration tools. Although Moodle doesn’t contain all of the capabilities that Blackboard does, it contains the most significant modules. Therefore, for this software application the open source software is recommended.
As far as the other required software is concerned, open source is recommended as well. There are many choices for open source software that specializes in photo or audio editing. Unless a training course is developed around a specific software package, such as Photoshop, then the expense of equipping the computers with such software is unjustifiable. If Avington College does incorporate a class in Photoshop, or other specific software packages, then it should just purchase the licenses as needed based upon enrollment in that particular class.
User Policies and Legal Issues
It is recommended that student sign a user policy agreement with the college. This agreement should specifically state what is considered appropriate use of the technology provided and what is prohibited. The agreement should be detailed in nature and descriptive as possible. For example, peer-to-peer software that allows redistribution of copy writed material is explicitly banned. This will provide the college one layer of defense against legal implications.
Another layer of protection against legal issues that the college can employ is blocking of undesirable material on the web. Server-based software can restrict various types of websites that students could potentially access. These categories of sites include social networking sites, x-rated sites, and shopping sites. If sites like these are blocked when a student attempts to access them then this offers the college an additional line of defense against potential legal issues.
Life of Equipment
Another issue that must be considered is the life expectancy of the system being built. Generally, according to www.cnet.com, average life expectancies of computer hardware are in the neighborhood of three to five years (Elliot, 2005). This must be established in order to fully estimate the project’s budget as far as the longevity of the project is concerned. Given the college’s restrictive budget, we will assume that it will stretch as much out of the budget as possible and adhere to the five-year mark for its IT expenditures.
Another consideration that should be brought to light is the specific stages in the hardware life cycle. If the college intends to employ one technician then it is important to know what that persons job expectations will be over the following five years. One website provides a comprehensive overview of what one should expect in this cycle (www.wdpi.com). The website provides this representation of what the hardware lifecycle stages should be:
The spreadsheet listed above is representative of the total cost of the proposed project. The desktop, laptop and server category represent the quote form Dell Computers for the hardware necessary for the project. This also includes the operating system and also Microsoft Office 2007. Therefore this estimate excludes any spending for software other than what is already budgeted in the Dell estimate. The other classroom software will consist of free open source software solutions.
The training estimate is composed of an estimate of what it may take to bring the faculty without computer skills up to par for the skills necessary to perform the basic classroom required technologically based instructing skills. This training will be composed of a consulting providing training in phased sections. For example, there will be a session for basic skills for the members of the faculty who do not possess basic computer skills. This will be followed by a training program on Moodle that all of the faculty will be required to attend.
Providing an Online Radio Service
For the college to provide an online radio service there exist several different options that could be implemented. The option recommended for this project does not cost the college much additional funding. This option utilizes the functionality of free software that has been developed to post both live streaming media to the web as well as media on demand. This software is provided free of charge form SHOUTcast, 2010). Though this service requires a dedicated server, it does not actually have to run a server OS; an average desktop can fulfill the requirements of the software.
This solution is recommended because the demand for student involvement is yet to be established. If student involvement is deemed in the future to warrant additional funding then more capabilities could be added later on. This expenditure is, for all intents and purposes, a first step for the Avington College’s exploratory radio station. If the site is a success for students and/or listeners then additional functionality may be considered.
Second Life is in many cases an actual second life. Users can create an avatar that resembles any appearance the user likes and use this avatar to interact with other avatars in a virtual world. This 3-D experience has an unlimited number of uses. One such use, requested by members of the facility, is create a virtual classroom in which the students avatar can attend the class from virtually anywhere in the world.
This endeavor is fairly cheap when considering capital expenditures; however it will potentially consume a bulk of the facility’s time. There are a plethora of other institutions offering such as service and recreation of this service Avington College may not be as costly as one would initially suspect. Second Life offers the service platform free of charge. Though the user fee for this service is free, the additional hidden costs that must be considered. Such costs include such items as the faculty’s time involved with setting up such a site and the additional training that a student must incur to learn the standard operating practices of such a website.
The requirements expected of Avington College’s stakeholders are not unreasonable. In this project presentation we have covered the full gambit of IT issues that are necessary to providing the small campus with an e-learning blended solution to enhance the student learning experience. Studies show this type of learning environment has many advantages. The multimodal opportunities, for instance, help students’ to efficiently retain more information. This investment will be an asset to Avington College and will provide the modern day platforms necessary to educate students in a modern day environment.
Barbara Means, Y.T. (2009). Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies. U.S. Department of Education.
Bates, T. (2009, June 24). e-Learning and 21st century skills and competences.
David Hucaby, D.D. (2010). CCNP Switch 642-813 Cert Kit. Cisco Press.
Elliot, M. (2005, July 15). www.cnet.com. Retrieved May 9, 2010, from http://reviews.cnet.com/4520-10166_7-5543710-1.html
Harmer, J. (2007). The changing world of the classroom, The practice of the English Langauge teaching. Harlow: Pearson Education.
Moberg, T. (1999). Campus Network Strategies: A Small College Perspective. CAUSE/EFFECT .
www.wdpi.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 9, 2010, from Woirld Data Products: http://www.wdpi.com
Category Units Per Unit Cost Life Span Total
Desktops 40 $1,100.00 5 $44,000.00
Laptops 10 $1,600.00 5 $16,000.00
Server 1 $2,000.00 5 $2,000.00
Networking 1 $5,000.00 5 $5,000.00
Training 1 $10,000.00 5 $10,000.00
Maintance 5 $30,000.00 1 $150,000.00
Total Per Year $45,400.00
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