D-FET – A Community Cloud for Enhancing Skills using Virtualised Environments and Cloud-based Infrastructures
Macfarlane, R. (2011, June). D-FET – A Community Cloud for Enhancing Skills using Virtualised Environments and Cloud-based Infrastructures. Paper presented at Scottish Higher Education Employability Conference: Strengthening Partnerships with Employers, Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh.
The use of virtualised and cloud-based environments provide an excellent opportunity to enhance learning and to provide students with skills which match exactly to the requirements of industry, along with integrating with professional certification. This presentation shows two examples, in computer security and digital forensics (at undergraduate and postgraduate level), where students can learn on enhanced infrastructure which would not have been possible before the extensive development of virtualised and cloud-based infrastructures.
It shows how a range of virtualised environments, including using Amazon Web Services, a university-built cloud, and from Flexiant (a local cloud provider) have been used to provide exposure to a wide range of environments which are pre-build, or which are built-up throughout the module, and thus supports the students within a safe environment in which they can learn without any danger, and where errors can be easily undone. The environments can thus be created to use industry-standard tools and infrastructure, and these can be joined together to create collaborative work, along with the continuation of work after the practical lab work has been done.
The presentation shows the results from surveys of students on the module, and their perceptions of working within virtualised environments, and highlights that one of the key factors is that they can work in real-life and complete environments, and on a range of systems, which are well matched to the needs of industry. The presentation also shows how virtualisation has been used to support both blended and distance learning students using the same labs which are accessed within a face-to-face practical session, but done through a virtualised environment, all through a Web browser.
Finally, the presentation will present a new community cloud which allows students from around Scotland to work within a virtualised infrastructure (hosted by a local Scottish company), and which industry and the public sector are able to contribute to in order to share training material and create relevant infrastructures for students. It thus shows that Scotland is leading the world in developments in this area.
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Electronic information now plays a vital role in almost every aspect of our daily lives. So the need for a secure and trustworthy online infrastructure is more important than ever. without it, not only the growth of the internet but our personal interactions and the economy itself could be at risk.