Teaching Computer Networking Principles
Using Simulation

Chris McDonald
Department of Computer Science
University of Western Australia


As a reflection of both computer industry requirements and contemporary Computer Science research there is an increasing emphasis on computer networks and data communications in the Computer Science curriculum. However, with significantly increased student numbers it is difficult to address many aspects of computer networking. Networking is an inherently practical area of study and students demand practical exercises that are sufficiently challenging.

The theme of this colloquium is that practical aspects of computer networking can best be demonstrated and examined through the use of interactive (not statistical based) simulation. The colloquium will discuss the challenges of teaching computer networking to large classes, and the role that interactive network simulation can successfully play. This colloquium is based on our use of network simulation for the last four years in undergraduate courses of over a hundred students each year. We have been successful in demonstrating checksum algorithms, different data-link protocols, fragmentation methods, virtual-circuit and datagram network layers, both static and dynamic routing algorithms, connection management and compression algorithms. We will recount our experiences that if two or three of these aspects are examined by different projects in successive years, one can reduce the incidence of both student plagiarism and laboratory demonstrator boredom.

Colloquia Series page.