Web Magazine for Information Professionals

UKERNA: Training the Networkers

John MacCulloch and Jane Batchelor, from UKERNA, detail their training course, designed for those installing, running, supporting, or managing a JANET connection.

Computer networking forms the basis for a whole raft of new information technologies; electronic mail, world wide web, networked data services, electronic mailing list services, electronic journals, on-demand publishing, and electronic document delivery to name but a few. Staff who are required to run services based on such technologies obviously need an understanding of the underlying networking.

Picture of network training An examination of computer networking course provision at higher education institutions reveals a plethora of courses on WWW browsing and html generation. Alongside the wordprocessing, electronic mail, and spreadsheet courses they form the bread and butter of the Computer Services training provision. Whilst such courses are adequate for, and indeed designed for, end-users there is little evidence of training courses for the staff who are required to provide, run or support the networks. Short of highly specialised and expensive commercial courses on TCP/IP, or similar, there is little other than on the job training.

This gap is filled by UKERNA's training courses, which were initially designed for staff at sites with new JANET connections. Such sites had generally been found to be lacking the knowledge necessary to set up their wide area networking. The courses generated have been made available to staff at established sites where they were found to be highly advantageous in bringing new staff 'up to speed'. The funding for this development was provided by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

Picture of network training The training differs from that provided by the majority of institutions in that it is aimed at the staff running, delivering and supporting the network rather than at end-users. It contains material on the hardware and software of networking, networking management, networking applications other than web, and the security implications of installing a network. The course focuses on the JANET network by including material on policy and funding as well as value added services provided by the JISC. Increasing attention is being paid to newer technologies as exemplified by sections on video conferencing and asynchronous transfer mode (ATM).

This course has undergone extensive modification since its initial delivery. This has, to a large extent, been as a result of the feedback from attendees, but has also been caused by the need to keep up to date with changes in the technology.

In an effort to make the training accessible to the maximum number of sites, courses are delivered in different locations. Courses have been held in London (3 times), Glasgow (twice), Cardiff, Belfast, Sussex, and Durham. We generally like to limit sessions to not more than 20 attendees, and each session includes several hours 'hands-on' practice with various networking applications. Comprehensive course documentation is supplied to every attendee.

As well as training courses for networking staff UKERNA also run a variety of workshops. These include, on an annual basis, Networkshop for technical staff, User Support for support staff, and Networking Strategy for Directors. Ad-hoc workshops on specific subjects are organised as required, recent examples include workshops on network security and video conferencing.

For further details of the courses and timetables see our web pages under http://www.ja.net/training/training.html