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Increasing It Laboratory Flexibility Using Portable Hard Drives

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Laboratory and Internship Innovations in IT/IS

Tagged Division

Information Systems

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.878.1 - 12.878.10



Permanent URL

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Paper Authors

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Michael Bailey Brigham Young University

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Michael Moore Brigham Young University

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Joseph Ekstrom Brigham Young University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Increasing IT Laboratory Flexibility Using Portable Hard Drives


IT students have unique workstation requirements that include complete control of a computer and its configuration, resulting in setups that are often incompatible with other uses of the lab. For example, the system integration and administration thrusts of the IT curricula require that a student be trained week after week on his own system, with his own software installation, configuration and log files. However, few institutions can afford space and hardware to provide students with individual systems. Possible solutions include requiring students to own laptops, creating individual virtual servers on a powerful hardware system, or more recently, to use portable hard drives.

The use of small, portable hard drives for dedicated system instruction was tested this year in a Web-systems course. Students in a study group were provided with portable drives and a second (control) group had notebook computers with large drives, a partition of which was dedicated to the IT coursework. The students compared these options in terms of speed, reliability, ease of use, and in the case of the drives, portability between host computers. Other comparisons such as weight and cost are readily apparent, but were evaluated according to their importance to the students. The study found that portable hard drives are an effective compromise between cost, flexible lab use, and performance.


Educating future Information Technology (IT) practitioners can be a very costly endeavor for a university due to the expense of obtaining, updating and maintaining computer hardware for student practicum. Typical IT laboratory curriculum includes networking, web programming, database development, information assurance and security, and system administration, all of which may have unique system and configuration requirements. Many IT programs do not have sufficient space and computational resources to dedicate laboratory rooms to individual topics, much less to dedicate computers to individual students within those labs.

These concerns are universal among educators, and have been addressed with varying degrees of success through various means. Some institutions or programs have required students to in effect, provide their own development systems in the form of a laptop computer. As stated by Campbell1, “Budget conscious universities are realizing that requiring students to purchase laptops can reduce the need for expensive multimedia classrooms.” The pervasiveness of this practice can be found quickly by means of an internet search engine. While this approach is available, it puts an additional strain on limited student finances.

An approach to laboratory flexibility that has been used at this and other institutions has been to use an imaging server to completely overwrite laboratory computer hard drives between lab sessions, to customize the systems to the needs of the next lab section.2,3 This approach does

Bailey, M., & Moore, M., & Ekstrom, J. (2007, June), Increasing It Laboratory Flexibility Using Portable Hard Drives Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2576

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