June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.444.1 - 13.444.5
Distance Learning with Limited Bandwidth Abstract
Access to quality technical education for Arabs living in the West Bank is essential for improving the economy of the region. Instructors living in the area have limited exposure to the latest technology for political and economic reasons. To address this problem, the author decided to offer a course in his area of expertise to Arab students from his home institution in the USA using distance learning.
A course in computer architecture was offered to junior-level students at an Arab university. It is a required course in their Information Systems curriculum. There were many challenges to overcome. One of them was that available internet bandwidth was extremely limited. For this reason the course was conducted asynchronously.
The paper will discuss how we dealt with the technical limitations and how we assessed the effectiveness of the course. Finally the author will discuss his experiences working with Arab students in this mode of learning.
During the 2003-2004, the author was granted leave to visit an Arab university in the West Bank. During his stay there he helped to establish a new major in Computers and Information Systems. One of the required courses in the curriculum was titled "Computer Architecture". However there was no one on the staff with the expertise to teach a course in modern computer hardware. So it was decided that when the author returned to the USA, he would offer this course through distance learning. An on-site faculty member would assist with course logistics. To date, the course has been offered twice in this manner.
The course uses the text Computer Organization and Design by Patterson and Hennessy, third edition published by Morgan Kaufman. The major topics are Turing machines, data representation, computer arithmetic, instruction set architecture, procedure calls in MIPs, compiler optimization, MIPs single-cycle machine, pipelining, memory systems, peripheral interfacing and RAID. We rely on the MipsIt1 development environment for programming assignments using the MIPS architecture.
Some of the challenges we faced were limited Internet bandwidth, restricted availability of computers, constrained finances and language differences. The biggest technical challenge was the limited bandwidth.
At the time this course was offered, the Arab university had a single 1 Mbit/sec Internet connection for the entire campus at a cost of $1200 per month. During the hours students are on campus, all downloads of audio or video content had to be blocked. This restriction made any sort of synchronous interaction with students impractical except for text messaging or chat. It was not feasible to upload any files from the USA that were larger than a few megabytes
Some students did not have personal computers at home, and had to rely on university computer labs which were open from 8 AM to 4 PM Monday to Friday.
Chaya, H. (2008, June), Distance Learning With Limited Bandwidth Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. https://peer.asee.org/3757
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