Course analysis:2D1490 (ipro1-05)

Author: Olof Hagsand, NADA.
Date: 2005-03-23

On-line version of course evaluation

Course Data

Number of credits: 5p
    Written examination TEN1 : 2p
    Laborations LAB1 : 2p
    Recitations HEM1 : 1p

Course dates: period 3, 2005

Course instructor: Olof Hagsand

Guest lecturers: Roland Elverljung (KTHNOC)
    Måns Nilsson (KTHNOC),
    Malin Carlzon (KTHNOC)
    Laura Marie Feeney (SICS)
    Kurt-Erik Lindqvist (NetNod)
    Anders Hillbo (KTHLAN)
    Per Nihlen (KTHNOC)

Lab assistants: Roland Elverljung, Gunnar Kreitz

Number of lectures: 12 (34 hours)

Number of recitations: 5 (10 hours)

Number of laborations: 8 (32 hours)

Number of recitation groups: 1

Number of lab groups: 1

Web page: http://www.nada.kth.se/kurser/kth/2D1490

Course literature:
    TCP/IP Protocol Suite, Second Edition (Behrouz A. Forouzan)
    Lecture slides
    Printed course material (kurshäfte) of RFCs, lab instructions, etc

Number of registered students: 18

Number of students directly aborting course: 4

Number of students passing TEN1: 14 (2005-03-10)

Number of students passing LAB1: 18

Number of students passing HEM1: 18

Number of students passing re-exam TEN1: ? (2005-04-08)

Degree of performance: 78%

Degree of examination: 78%

Current course: What was new?

This was the first time I was course instructor for this course. I tried to maintain the course as it was previously given since the course evaluation had been very positive. Based on the comments of the evaluation, and somewhat on my own experience, the following changes were made:

General comments on this year's course

The students experienced the course as very positive, as can be seen by the course evaluation. This especially applies to the recitations and labs.

Lectures

The course is really separated into three logical parts: (1) introduction to internetworking; (2) Internal routing; (3) Related areas.

The first part is an addition to the course since two years back when the introductory course (2D1392) was removed. There are other introductory courses (2G1316, 2G1305) but none of the students had taken these.

The introduction part followed the course book (Forouzan), and the lectures were given by Roland Elverljung (2) and Olof Hagsand (1). These lectures do not really belong to the course - since they are too fundamental. It is difficult to give a complete internetworking coverage in a few lectures. Instead, this should be prerequisites to the course, such as the re-introduction of 2D1392.

The main lectures (internal routing) was given by Olof Hagsand (3) and Malin Carlzon (1). The lectures are the weak point from a pedagogic perspective in this course. While the recitations and labs are very much to the point, the lectures were more problematic in conveying the subject to the students. It would be better to spend more lectures on the central parts of the course. Still, the student review gave good grades to the lectures, with some exceptions.

There were five guest lectures on subjects related to the course, or to internetworking in general. The students had varying comments on these lectures, and many students chose not to be present. Many did this since they were not covered by the exam, lab or recitations. It is questionable to have such an extensive guest lecture program for a handful of students - at least out of respect for the guest lecturers.

Some of the lectures were scheduled to three hours. For some lectures, it was good to have some extra time, but the general view was that three hours is one hour too much.

Recitations

The recitations used an intensive group work methodology. The students were prepared wih a home-work, and new, often difficult assignments were solved in groups during the recitations. The groups then presented the results in front of the class.

The recitations were popular by almost all students, and worked well to convey the subject. Much better than the lectures. They were also excellent to prepare the students for the labs.

Labs

The focus of the course is very much on the labs which constitute the heart of the courses provided by KTHNOC. They are popular among the students and work very well.

The labs are made in room SAM at Teknikringen 14. The students were partitioned into five groups, with each group having four work-stations running FreeBSD, and four CISCO routers. The labs are very much "hands-on" including connecting all wires and networks for each lab.

One observation is that there might be too much emphasis on OSPF, one or two of the intermediate OSPF labs could be removed and replaced by other topics, such as ISIS and Multicast.

Examination

The eight labs were mandatory. The presence on the labs was very high, only one student was absent at one single time. All registered students passed.

Four out of five recitations were also mandatory, as were the homework for each recitation. All registered students passed.

The exam was slightly enhanced and more difficult compared to previous years. However, since it followed the recitations and labs quite closely, the result was good. One exam question (RIP) was unfortunately not well designed, the question was more advanced than intended and this caused some confusion among the students.

Three persons got grade five, three got grade four, six got grade three. One person did not reach grade three, but obtained grade three after an oral exam. Three persons chosed to make the exam at a later point - an oral exam will be given on April 8.

A problem with the written exam follows the layout of the course. It is only the central parts (internal routing) that is possible to make a written examination on. The introduction is too fundamental, and the related work is too diversified.

Therefore, the course design might benefit from removing the introductory part and making the guest lecture part smaller.

Literature

The course book used in previous years got very bad reviews, also from the course instructor. This year's book (Forouzan) got better marks, but its problem is that it does not cover the main parts of the course: internal routing. It does, however, cover the other two parts (intro and related work).

Therefore, the book gives a good background to the subject, but is not really a help to the students when reading for the written exam.

The central literature for labs and exam is the standardization documents: RFCs. These documents are inherently difficult to read, but the students managed to do this quite nicely. However, it is essential to have good reading instructions - these were available on the web.

It can be noted that actually reading a standardization document might be useful for future engineers, since they will probably often encounter such documents in their future proifessional career.

Changes for next year

The major changes planned for next year include:

Course Committee

Despite asking for student representatives, no-one volunteered as course committee.

Course Evaluation

The course evaluation was completed by the students at the time after the exam. Three choose to do the evaluation electronically via the ACE web-based system, and ten made it on paper at the first exam.

Appendix 1: Result of student course evaluation