One of the benefits available to “Level 1” members of the National Convergence Technology Center’s (CTC) Convergence College Network community is access to free Network Development Group (NDG) online virtual labs to support A+, Net+ and Security+ courses. Since 2016, these CTC virtual labs – hosted by grant partner schools Collin College, Georgia Southern University, and Florida State College Jacksonville – have been used by over 2000 students.
The purpose of the CTC arranging this kind of support is to demonstrate to the schools the value of virtual labs. Students using virtual labs are no longer bound to the hours of a physical brick-and-mortar lab, which may or may not work with every student’s busy schedule. Virtual labs, by contrast, allow for 24/7 access. The lab never closes. This not only provides more scheduling flexibility to students but also allows time to practice labs again and again, if needed, to master a concept. The hope is that after sampling NDG virtual labs and seeing the benefits, IT programs will request funding to pay for the service on their own. This is exactly what happened with Tarrant County College, a long-time CCN member school. We’ll let Faculty Member Charles DeSassure tells the story:
“Tarrant County College has benefited greatly from using the NDG equipment/NetLab within our current security curriculum. NetLab is used in our ITSY 1300 – Fundamentals of Information Security class and it allows our students to obtain additional hands-on experience to reinforce topics that we discussed in class. The wonderful thing about NetLab is that it has motivated my students about information security. My students are excited to be using NetLab.”
While administrative turnover delayed the budget approval needed for Tarrant County College to purchase a NetLab subscription, the wait eventually paid off. Charles recently informed the CTC that his school has approved an order for NetLab. The system will be in place for fall 2017. He credits the free access provided by the CTC and partner Georgia Southern University that allowed Charles to use the virtual labs in his security classes. Charles reports, “The students stated that NetLab contributed to their success within these classes and provided additional hands-on IT experience.”