Unit 11: Course Retrospective

Tux, the Linux penguin

Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have already taken two DigIn Courses, IRLS 671 and IRLS 673 so I was not sure what to expect from taking IRLS 672. I have worked as a technical writer in a web hosting company and have worked in the systems department of a library on Drupal websites but I never worked with Linux, MySQL databases, or PHP. I also had limited knowledge of XML.

I am confident that learning to work with and install virtual servers and software will be an important skill for testing new server and software options. Experimenting with Linux was one of my favorite parts of the course as I already knew the importance of Linux in many business and library environments. As with all new computing languages, I paid particular attention to the Linux syntax. For instance, higher case letters produce different commands than lower case letters. I think this mitigated the frustration factor. My background in HTML and CSS coding was a good preparation for understanding the importance of syntax.

Although I understood the principles involved in web hosting, I did not have a firm grasp of networking technologies I did not know, for instance, what a MAC address was or a subnet mask or how important the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model was to networking. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OSI_model Our assignments for the networking unit gave us the hands-on experience of configuring our own home router and network. Having a firmer grasp of how networking works will be invaluable, for instance, if I work in a smaller library or organization that has few resources.

The combination of hand-on exercises and written assignments was different than the other DigIn courses that I took. The hands-on exercises, however, were invaluable. As I also have a background in instructional technology, I appreciated the “active learning” through the hands on exercises component. Active learning where the student is very engaged in the learning process,

produces much better results than other types of learning such as listening passively to a lecture. Maybe a research project could be undertaken to determine the educational effectiveness of IRLS 672?

The other interesting aspect of the course was that it was an online course. I wondered how hands on exercises and assignments could be undertaken in the online environment. It worked very well. I think the Activity forum in the class where we could post technical issues to be resolved was an excellent support and resolved problems much quicker than trying to research information on the Internet using Google.

Apart from the technical aspects, the course also had organizational and analytical components. How can you, for instance, design a database with an entity relationship diagram. The technology planning aspect of the course enabled me to think strategically about a technology project and not just concentrate on the technological aspects. The whole environment needs to be considered including stakeholders, the users, and others.

The emphasis on troubleshooting and constantly searching for and using resources for learning will be extremely beneficial. Open source software projects have a number of online communities that are valuable resources which I intend to draw from.

Overall, the course has enabled me to put the pieces of the LAMP jigsaw puzzle together.  I  now know what functions PHP, Linux, and MySQL have and how they fit together or understand the information management architecture in the LAMP stack. My ability to “plan, deploy, and manage technology project” has also expanded. I look forward to the digital future!

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