O p e r a t i n g   P r i n c i p l e s
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Version of 9-24-98 By Mark Pullen
G e o r g e  M a s o n  U n i v e r s i t y
Professional Education Certificate Course

Network Science &


1. Description of Course

The Network Science and Engineering Certificates (NSC/NEC) program is intended to educate practicing technical professionals holding a Bachelor's degree or equivalent technical experience. To earn the certificate they will have a solid working knowledge of computer networking that will support participation in design and implementation of basic networks and the underlying technologies for network-based information technology. The general areas of focus are communications, network protocols, and network software, including explicit focus on critical areas of network security and network management.

To earn the NEC will require participation in three activities:
(1) the Network Science Certificate (NSC) academic course from GMU (eight blocks, each consisting of four lessons, two hours in length)
(2) a hands-on networking technology course provided by Computer-Based Training from Learning Tree International)
(3) the Network Engineering Practicum offered by GMU in cooperation with Learning Tree. Upon successful completion of the practicum, the NEC will be conferred by GMU. The NSC and NEC certificates can be earned separately, and it is possible to exempt any block of the NSC, or the hands-on component of the NEC, by passing appropriate examinations.

Earning the NEC requires demonstration of theoretical competence from the NSC, practical competence, and mastery of the combination as demonstrated in the NEP. When they finish, NEC students will have the skills and understanding on an entry-level Network Engineer, They will be able to create network-based systems that solve common needs to distribute information and its processing over networks in ways that are practical and effective. The course will teach engineering concepts that will remain valid over time, as well as exposing students to the latest networking technologies.

2. How is the NSC course organized and delivered?

a. The course will be a sequence of eight blocks (modules), each lasting four weeks. Each module will be developed, maintained, and presented by expert technical professionals from among the faculty of the GMU School of Information Technology and Engineering. Students will receive the lessons from a server via Internet to computer desktops in their offices and homes. They also will communicate frequently with the instructors at GMU. The blocks we are currently planning are:

Communication principles
Carrier communication systems
Wireless communication systems
Basic datalink control and LAN systems
WAN protocol basics
Network security techniques
Network management techniques
Advanced LAN/WAN technologies and protocols

b. The desktop delivery system (ClassWise) software provided as part of the NSC permits delivery of slides with real-time annotation, spoken presentations, and text interchanges between presenter and students (the slides must be downloaded before class begins). ClassWise is supplemented by webpages and electronic mail. The system works over the Internet in the local GMU region, and also over dial-in access with at least 28.8 kbps capacity. A successful pilot NSC has been held using this technology.

c. What is the schedule for Certificate completion? The schedule is up to the student, however each block of instruction-COM1, COM2, NET1, etc. must be completed and the final exam taken within three months of the official enrollment date for that block. For those who register for more than one block at a time, the window of completition will be based on the date the final exam for the previous block was graded. The course manager can extend these time windows if requested and justified by the student in advance.

d. Must the blocks be taken in order? The first four blocks (COM1, COM2, NET1, NET2) must be taken in order, unless the student is able to exempt them by passing block-end tests-see paragraph e below. The last four blocks can be taken in any order, after the first four have been completed.

e. Exempting a block by testing: A student must be currently enrolled and paid in a block to take an exam, but students can skip one or more blocks without paying again if they can pass the exam(s) before taking the block(s). To take an exam, send email to nec-support@bacon.gmu.edu with the words "Exemption Exam" and the block code you are seeking to exempt (such as COM1) in the subject.

3. What is required of students to enter the NSC course?

a. Two sample lessons are available online. Prospective students should try these before they register.

b. To enter the course, students must be practicing professionals with a Bachelor's degree or equivalent experience in a technical field, and self-certify their background in technical subjects after taking a pre-test on mathematics, physics, and computer technology which is available on the NSC/NEC website. Once accepted, a student (or their employer) must pay tuition for one block of NSC ($500, less any discounts) before being provided with a password to access the course.

c. To begin any part of NSC or NEC, the student must have demonstrated competence in the prerequisite material, either by passing the block-end exam for any pre-requisite blocks, or in the case of blocks with no prerequisite by passing the course pre-test.

d. Course tuition is $4,000 for NSC and $4,000 for NEC ($8,000 total). The NSC price amounts to out-of-state tuition for each module plus a surcharge for the distance delivery support. (GMU must charge out-of-state tuition because professional education is not supported by tax dollars.) The minimum unit of enrollment is one block for NSC and one part (half) of NEC.

e. Tuition is non-refundable; in return GMU will commit to sustaining the students' enrollment in the course for up to three months after registering for an NSC block, one year after registering for all of NSC, and one year after registering for either part of NEC. Extensions to these time periods may be granted my the NSC/NEC course manager where the situation warrants.

4. What is expected of students who are enrolled in the NSC course?

a. Students will be considered to have participated in a block by participating in each of the four sessions asynchronously by submitting all required homework. A student will be considered to have completed a block by submitting all homework and passing the end-of-block exam.

b. After beginning a block students must participate in that block, unless precluded by circumstances beyond their control (for students sponsored by companies, the circumstances must also be beyond the company's control). A student who fails to participate will be required to pay tuition in order to repeat. However, a student who participates but fails the end-of-block exam may repeat the block at no additional tuition monthly, for up to three months after enrolling in that block.

c. Students who successfully complete every block (not necessarily in any particular order) will receive the final Network Science Certificate.

5. How will the NSC course be run?

a. Overall operation of the course will be the responsibility of a Course Manager (CM) from the GMU Schools of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E) faculty. The CM ensures that course presentation materials are complete and up to date, schedules the course, selects the presenters, supervises the support contractor, manages the course budget, approves student entrance and waiver applications, and coordinates all participants.

b. Course delivery will be enabled by a combination of GMU network facilities and a support contractor. The support contractor will provide assistance to presenters in slide and webpage preparation, and operate the desktop delivery facility, including scheduling asynchronous playback. The contractor will maintain all course records and provide general administrative support for certificate management. The support contractor will also track certificate holders so that the effectiveness of the material over time can be assessed.

c. Instructors for the blocks will be regular or affiliate members of the faculty of IT&E. Instructors will be responsible for defining block contents, in cooperation with the CM; preparing detailed slides for each session, and updating them with each delivery (graphic assistance available from support contract); preparing homework for each lesson, and grading it; responding promptly to student questions by email or telephone; preparing a new examination for each offering, and grading it; and participating in the evaluation of practicum projects. Instructors will be recruited by the CM, with first priority given to the regular GMU faculty. They will be confirmed by other participating maintainers, and by the Dean of IT&E.

6. How does the "hands-on" Learning Tree course fit into NEC?

a. Earning the Network Engineering Certificate will require the student to learn and demonstrate mastery of both academic knowledge and technical skills needed to design and build networks. The hands-on component is an essential part of this. The NSC/NEC program has selected Learning Tree International as its partner to provide Computer Based Training to meet this need.

b. Learning Tree is making the CBT modules available to NEC students at a very attractive price, $1,000 for the complete CBT course in configuring all common network components, including a review with a Learning Tree instructor in preparation for the NEP practicum. Students choose between Windows NT and Unix options.

7. How will the NEP practicum be run?

a. The practicum will be a collaborative effort of GMU and Learning Tree. The practicum is intended to apply a broad range of theory taught in the NSC course to a moderately difficult real-world network systems problem, and MAKE IT WORK.

b. To enroll in the practicum must have completed the NSC and part 1 of the NEC (the Learning Tree CBT, or equivalent examination), and be available to work on the practicum at least one day per week, for three months. The tuition will be $3,000. The practicum will not be available by distance education because it involves hands-on work and in-person briefings. One major meeting/briefing each month will be combined with extensive hands-on work and a high level of email interaction with the faculty. The practicum will be offered up to three times each year if there are students registered.

c. Students will have a choice of solving actual system problems from their work, or school problems assembled by GMU and Learning Tree. They will work in groups of two or at most three (or individually, by exception). They will work in GMU or Learning Tree facilities in Northern Virginia.

d. The practicum will be coordinated by the GMU course manager, with participation by the GMU NSC faculty and Learning Tree IPC faculty. In addition practicing professionals in the networking field will serve as mentors to the groups. After the first year we expect to recruit past students as mentors. Students, faculty and mentors will meet monthly. Students will brief their project status and all will discuss the solution and alternatives. This will be a rigorous process which will require a significant effort to be considered acceptable.

f. Upon successful completion of the practicum the student will receive the GMU Network Engineering Certificate.

Updated: 9/25/1998

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