Automating the assessment of networking and security in higher education

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    In the subject of computer networking students must understand the concepts and be confident in configuring and securing a range of network devices and systems. Challenges are faced in assessing practical networking and security exercises in a laboratory environment utilising multivariate devices and operating systems that involve real or simulated systems operating in real or virtualized environments. The working environment for a practical exercise must be pre-configured and once an exercise has been completed the results extracted to enable formative or summative assessment of the outcomes. Using manual methods this process can be time consuming and it would therefore be beneficial to implement some form of automation. To facilitate this a new application has been developed that automates the configuration management and assessment processes within a computer networking laboratory. The new application has been successfully used to assess the extent to which students have been able to configure secure networks using case-study based exercises. The development challenges of the application and rationale for the implementation of the prototype application are discussed. A test methodology is presented in which the application is used to assess the outcomes of a computer networking exercise, comparing the results obtained from the application with those of a proprietary simulator. This demonstrates that the prototype application is able to successfully and accurately automate the assessment of the practice of networking and security in the context of defined parameters. Further work is suggested to improve the assessment mechanism employed by the application, seek enhancements and to conduct additional tests.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    JournalAnnals of Emerging Technologies in Computing
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020

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