Operating System and Network Administration

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The Role of Operating Systems and Network Administration in the IS Curriculum D. Robert Adams and Carl Erickson
Grand Valley State University
Department of Computer Science and Information Systems
Allendale, MI 49401 USA
The reliance by companies of all sizes on information technology creates strong demand for system and network administration jobs. Information System majors will increasingly find themselves with opportunities and responsibilities in these areas. However, teaching operating systems and networking to information systems major presents many challenges. We have developed a model for teaching these topics to information systems majors in the context of operating system and network administration. This paper describes our model, the lecture materials used, and a novel lab configuration. Keywords: administration, education, operating systems, networking

Networks of computers are the model for business information infrastructures today. Gone are the days of a single mainframe machine with terminals attached to it. Today, a business' information infrastructure consists of one or more servers that communicate with tens, hundreds, and even thousands of clients, and the explosive growth of networks drives an increasing demand for network administrators. Exceptional growth in IT jobs, including network and system administration, is widely expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Reports from the Commerce Department cite a shortage of high tech workers. The White House has recently created training programs to address the shortage. While some organizations and researchers dispute the extent of a shortage, it is widely agreed even by critics of such studies that new IT jobs are being created very rapidly. As information technology becomes ubiquitous, and even very small companies rely on it for their daily operation, the skills of system and network administration become more in demand, and more vital. More and more IS majors may find their future job responsibilities including some system administration duties, even if they are not hired strictly in that role. A network administrator is a manager: not of people but of computing resources. A network administrator is responsible for installing new hardware and software, creating and managing user accounts, installing and maintaining print services, ensuring that the network is running smoothly and that the computers are communicating efficiently, verifying the integrity (security) of the network, handling user complaints, and so forth. Traditionally, the role of network administrator has been filled by computer science (CS) graduates, but not because they receive special training for that position. Network administration lacks a traditional academic home - you will rarely find a network administration course at a college or university. Yet, CS students seem to fill the position of network administrator because as students computer scientists gain a fundamental theoretical knowledge of operating systems and networks. A typical CS student has an understanding of processes, distributed services, networking protocols, file systems, network topologies, etc. This fundamental knowledge enables a CS student to learn the high-level managerial aspects required of a network administrator. However, the role of network administrator is suited more to an information systems (IS) graduate than a computer science graduate. Information/computer management issues are the raison-d'être of information systems. The current publicly available reference for IS curriculum describes the topics of networking and operating systems in two courses (Davis 1997; Longenecker 2000)Error! Reference source not found.. The relevant parts of those course descriptions are excerpted below . IS '97.4 Information Technology Hardware and Software: "operating systems functions and types; operating system modules: processes, process management, memory...
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