CvLabs: A Container Based Interactive Virtual Lab for IT Education
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With the ongoing trend of digital transformation, the need for more well-trained IT professionals is keep raising, as well as the need for quality IT education. Experiential learning is a key component for learners to practice problem solving and develop skills in many IT courses. Virtual lab is an effective solution to meet the increasing demand on experiential learning environment. However, delivering and managing satisfying virtual labs are technically and economically challenging for instructors, lab designers and educational institutions. This paper presents the design and implementation for CvLabs, a container based interactive virtual lab system. The system can provide learners with ready-to-use virtual learning environments. It also enables learners to share lab sessions to improve collaboration, which is missing in many implementations of virtual lab. CvLabs is built with industrial standard open source container technologies. Container provides a foundation for the delivery of consistent virtual lab environments and improves learning experience. It also simplifies the creation of reusable lab contents, which can significantly reduce the workload of lab instructors and lab designers. The introduction of container ensures CvLabs can be deployed on various infrastructures and scaled to support a large number of learners. By leveraging cloud infrastructure, CvLabs can lower the cost of delivering and managing virtual labs for educators and educational institutions. CvLabs was deployed for a test run with a small group of test users. The system received positive feedback on the learning experience improvement. The preliminary results from this work shows containers is a promising technology for experiential learning in IT education.