IRLS Unit 12: Virtualization and Pedagogy

This week we were asked to discus whether or not we would like pre-configured virtual machines to work with  instead of building our own virtual machine to work with different repositories. I googled the words “virtual machine and pedagogy” and found some research has been done on the pedagogical use of virtual machines.

Advantages of Pre-Installed Virtualization
The advantages of using a pre-installed virtual machine for the instructor include less time troubleshooting virtual machines (VM) on different operating platforms as in our online class. As Gaspa and Sousa state, “Difficulties in the multi platform deployment and use of pedagogical

Virtual Machines can have an annoying impact in the success of a compilers construction course. “ They also state that “the VM multi-platform deployment is not easy and becomes usually problematic for students.” Gaspar and De Sousa proposed a web-based host platform for pedagogical virtual machines to overcome these problems.

Pre-configured virtual machines would provide more time to work on building the digital collections in the different repositories. It took approximately two hours to install a different virtual machine for each repository and I would have liked to learn more about the repository software so that I could have created some innovative digital collections. Exploring new ideas takes time which was not available in the course as the course took more time than the usual graduate course of about 15-20 hours per week.

Virtual Machines and ELearning
NextGen Education, an e-learning company is already using pre-installed virtual machines for teaching purposes while combining this use with other pedagogical techniques such as using multimedia to highlight major concepts. See

NextGen  also uses  instructor and student forums where students can pose question such as we did in our course. The forums in our course were extremely helpful in resolving a number of issues with the installation of the different repositories and other software that needed to be installed. NextGen also provides instructor to instructor forums and this may be an interesting idea to incorporate for instructors teaching virtual machine based courses at the University of Arizona. I found the forums invaluable in resolving many issues.

One of the largest course management systems companies, Blackboard, also uses pre-installed virtual machines for some of their developer courses. See

Advantages of  Using a Virtual Machine that is not Pre-installed.
I valued the opportunity to learn about  using Linux commands which are extremely important in working with open-source software. Hand-on tasks with the commands, although time-consuming, are one of the best ways to learn different software tasks. Understanding the commands will enable me to troubleshoot repository systems more efficiently and effectively. I also valued the opportunity to learn at my own pace and in some cases experiment with the different commands. It also gave me some more time for troubleshooting which would not be as easy to accomplish with a pre-installed virtual machine. Similar pedagogical advantages were identified in a paper by T.S Chou (2011) where students used virtualization technology to simulate real-world attacks in a virtual environment.

Although virtualization is being increasingly used in the academic and business community as a teaching tool there does not appear to be as much interest in the effectiveness of using pre-installed virtual machines as a teaching tool. Using a pre-installed virtual machine while concentrating on building an innovative digital collection is a good idea but would be similar to creating a web page without using HTML code. The student would not understand the code and could not troubleshoot effectively to fix any issues that arose with the coding. Another course in the DigIn program, however, on building advanced digital collections using pre-installed virtual machines may be a good development if the first course in the series concentrated more on the installation and configuration of the digital collection.

Chou, T.S. (2011). Development of an Intrusion Detection and Prevention Course Project Using Virtualization Technology. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 7(2), 46-55. Retrieved November 14, 2013 from

Nuno Gaspar and Simão Melo de Sousa. A Web-based Host Platform for Pedagogical Virtual Machines. 9th IFIP World Conference on Computers in Education 2009 – WCCE’09. Bento Gonçalves, Brazil. [pdf]

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