The iLabs (short for Internet Laboratory) are practical courses offered by the Chair of Network Services and Architectures. The iLab concept was developed by Marc-Oliver Pahl since 2004, starting with the iLab1. He also developed the elearning platform used for the iLabs, the labsystem.

The main objective of the iLab courses is making students familiar with relevant concepts and technologies of today’s Internet (or networking in general). The courses consist of 6 to 10 different exercises, with a different focus depending on the course (see below for more info). For each exercise student visit a lecture where they learn the general concepts of that exercises topic. Afterwards they deepen their knowledge in the are in a so called Pre-Lab where they learn more (technical) things about the topic. Finally they have to do a hands-on exercise, the Lab. Aside from the technical skills, students also gain soft skills, as they have to collaborate with each other. The Lab takes place in a Lab room at TUM, where each team has access to six computers, two switches and two Cisco routers, enabling them to do real world network experiments.

I became involved with the courses starting 2014, as a Tutor for the iLab1 for 4 semesters. When I started working at the chair, I joined Marc-Oliver as supervisor for the iLab2 course. Together with a lot of motivated students we developed the iLabX, with the goal to bring the iLab experience not just to TUM students but a global audience in the form of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on edX.

Below you can find a brief summary of all courses.

iLabX - The Internet Masterclass

Available now!

iLabX - The Internet Masterclass is available now on edX!

If you are interested you can enroll now for free. If you buy the optional certificate you’ll get access to some additional exam questions, but all the base content and topics we cover is available for anyone!

So far we had:

  • More than 1400 participants
  • From over 100 different countries
  • With totally different backgrounds: students, business people, with or without university degree,…

About the iLabX

The iLabX is a brand new course we started developing in 2016. The goal of the iLabX is to enable everyone worldwide interested in learning how the Internet works in doing so. The iLabX focuses on presenting relevant technologies in a way everyone can follow, even without previous experience in computer science.

The iLabX is based on the vLab network model, an adaption from the standard ISO/OSI respectively TCP/IP Network Layers. It covers the following topics:

  • Layers 1+2: Basics, Physics
  • Layer 3: IPv6, IPv4
  • Layer 3: Routing
  • Layer 4: TCP, UDP
  • Layer 5+: DNS, HTTP(s)
  • Layer X: Firewall, NAT64

As the iLab1 and iLab2 courses (see below) have shown that practical exercises are really useful to fully understand a topic, we wanted to bring the iLab principle to the global Internet audience. For this reason we developed the Virtual Internet Laboratory, which is basically a virtual machine with a graphical network emulator. Students can simply download that machine and start it on their own device. For each exercises we provide them with a template for the network emulator, which they can start from a user friendly UI. Afterwards they can do practical networking experiments in the Virtual Internet Laboratory similar to the practical experiments done in the iLab1/2 at TUM.

iLabX - The Virtual Internet Laboratory

The Virtual Internet Laboratory started as internal testrun for the global iLabX - The Internet Masterclass course on edX. By now it is a regular practical course offered at TUM each semester and combines the online learning experience with selected on-site experiments at TUM.

The Virtual Internet Laboratory is organized as block course, where students have around one month time to go through the online part in edX in their own pace. Afterwards they go through selected exercises from the iLab1 and iLab2 in a 2-3 week block at TUM. In addition they take an oral examination for both parts of the course.

iLab1 - Build your own Internet

The iLab1 has its focus on the basic protocols and mechanisms that build the foundation of the modern Internet. Some example topics are:

  • IPv4/IPv6
  • Static and dynamic routing
  • Transport Layer Protocols: TCP and UDP
  • The Domain Name System (DNS)
  • Firewalls

After finishing the iLab1, students know about all relevant protocols, enabling them to build their own Internet, hence the title.

iLab2 - You set the Focus!

In contrast to the iLab1, the iLab2 expects that students already are familiar with the basics of computer networking. The focus of the iLab2 is on selected topics of computer networking technologies. Some examples of topics covered by the iLab2 are:

  • IPv6
  • The Border Gateway Protocol (BGP)
  • Web security
  • Smart Space Orchestration (Software and Hardware)

Aside from those exercises done in the traditional iLab style (lecture - Pre-Lab - Lab), each student team also creates their own mini exercise on a topic of their choice. This includes creating a lecture, Pre-Lab and Lab, as well as going through a peer review process to improve the quality of the resulting exercises. Each semester 2-3 of those so-called minilabs from earlier semesters are chosen by the participating students in addition of the regular exercises.