(ABILENE, Texas) – A new program will allow Computer Networking and Systems Administration students at Texas State Technical College to work on equipment virtually.

TSTC will use the NetLab program for virtual lab sessions, instructor Adrian Medrano said.

“NetLab is very popular for remote training,” Medrano said. “The benefits are amazing.”

Students will use the program to work on a computer system online just like the real instruments. Medrano said students will operate instruments with knobs and buttons the same way they would an actual computer. Measurements will be displayed on the computer screen to help students during the lab session, he added.

“Having NetLab is huge. Companies like Cisco and Microsoft use this for training their employees,” Medrano said. “With the push to move everything online, we are looking forward to getting this content to our students.”

Medrano is no stranger to the program. He said TSTC instructors have used it for their own training sessions held throughout the state.

“I enjoy working with this program. It is easy to navigate,” he said. “I see nothing but smooth sailing for our students when they use NetLab.”

The program will allow Medrano and other instructors to achieve their goal of providing companies with a “well-rounded individual for an IT (information technology) department.”

“We are not going to focus on one certain area. By the time a student graduates, they will learn how to take apart and put back together a computer system,” Medrano said. “They will know how to put a computer on a company network, share files, and other aspects of computer networking.”

That knowledge is important in today’s business world, according to Medrano.

“Sharing information between computers in a business is the main aspect of the network,” he said.

Another area in which students will gain knowledge is security settings.

“We are going to teach students how to make a computer virus-free and to make sure no one hacks into the system,” Medrano said. “We are going to teach all of the security tactics they will need, as well as the difference between a virus, worm and Trojan software.”

Medrano said students will become knowledgeable about routers and switches.

“They will know the difference between a home router and routers used at small businesses,” he said. “Students are going to know exactly how the internet happens when they complete the program. They are going to know how they can send something from their home to around the world with just one click.”

Medrano said the online classes will benefit students.

“This will give students a lot of flexibility, and they can remain safe,” he said. “We are going to deliver our content via video, but it will still have a classroom feel.”

Medrano said instructors were recorded during classes last spring, and those videos will be used for classroom lessons during the upcoming school year.

“Students will be able to watch the video at their convenience and then practice what they learned with NetLab,” he said.

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to tstc.edu.

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