Over the past two years, the digitization of the Sri Lankan higher education sector accelerated dramatically amidst the pandemic. Today, most universities utilize a combination of Learning Management Systems, Zoom for lectures, and a host of other systems for learning. Behind the scenes, the System Engineers and Network Managers of these universities tirelessly work to ensure the infrastructure powering these systems operates at peak performance around the clock. Further, much of this infrastructure serving as the digital backbone of local universities is running Linux.
Recognizing the critical contributions of these System Engineers and Network Managers, LEARN recently held a workshop to enhance their Linux skills in managing the IT infrastructure for their respective institutions. The workshop was the organization’s first physical workshop after the COVID-19 pandemic. It gave attendees a valuable opportunity to deepen their understanding of Linux and learn how to troubleshoot and manage systems running this important operating system effectively. The workshop was well-attended and marked a significant milestone as LEARN resumed in-person events after 2 years of virtual gatherings.
Five days of Linux: The lessons learned
The Linux workshop organized by LEARN was designed to provide attendees with a comprehensive overview of the operating system over the course of five days. The workshop began with an introduction to Linux, covering fundamental concepts such as the command line, file system hierarchy, and package management. From there, the workshop delved into more advanced topics, including working with databases and web applications, Linux virtualization, and disaster recovery.
Throughout the workshop’s ten sessions, attendees worked hands-on with Linux systems, practicing what they had learned and gaining valuable experience. The workshop was structured to give them a beginner’s introduction to Linux, ensuring attendees had a solid foundation to build upon as they progressed through the course. By the end of the five days, attendees clearly understood how to effectively manage their higher education institutions’ systems and network equipment to serve the thousands of stakeholders – from students to lecturers to administrative staff and more.
At the end of the workshop, a quiz was given on December 1, 2022, and the winners were awarded three gift cards. A social dinner was also arranged at Galbunglow at 7:00 pm on the same day for all participants. The certificates for the workshop were prepared and awarded by the CEO of LEARN, Prof. Roshan Ragel, to all participants who had attended all workshop sessions. The awarding of certificates and the social dinner concluded the workshop, allowing participants to reflect on their learning and celebrate their achievements.
Returning to physical workshops and their benefits
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, all LEARN’s workshops were held in person. However, as the pandemic swept across the globe, it became necessary to shift to virtual events. As a result, the organization moved its workshops online, using Zoom to facilitate learning and interaction among attendees. The silver lining of these virtual workshops was that they enabled more participants to join, as witnessed during the UPROUSEwithLEARN program.
Despite the success of these virtual events, the organization received requests from participants to return to in-person workshops. In response to these requests, the Chairman of LEARN, Prof. Chandana Udawatte, issued directives to conduct physical events again. Thus, LEARN resumed physical training sessions with the Campus Systems Linux Essentials Workshop. Doing so realized several advantages for the participants and trainers conducting the programs.
One key advantage of in-person workshops was the opportunity for real-time interaction between the trainer and trainees. This was especially beneficial during practical sessions, as it allowed trainers to provide instant guidance and feedback as attendees worked through exercises to practice what they had learned. In addition to the benefits of real-time interaction, physical workshops also served as a platform for participants from different universities and institutes to socialize, interact, and share knowledge and experiences.
The enthusiasm from trainers and participants alike
The trainers felt it was a great success when asked about their thoughts on the workshop. They were impressed by the dedication and active participation of the participants, who were eager to learn and engage with the material. In addition, they appreciated the opportunity presented by a physical workshop to give participants a clear hands-on demonstration of various topics. Despite the limited time, the trainers covered a vast syllabus, completed the tasks, and felt well-supported by the LEARN operations team. The interaction among participants was also good, especially during hands-on practices, and the trainers received positive feedback from the participants.
Further, many attending trainees too shared that it was an excellent workshop. They praised LEARN for arranging accommodation and transportation along with the instructors, who many stated offered invaluable insights in their sessions. However, they also expressed a desire for more time in the labs and for similar workshops to be hosted regularly, with follow-up on their progress afterward. Overall, the post-event survey indicated the attendees enjoyed the workshop and found it to be a valuable learning experience, which is a testament to LEARN’s commitment to providing a high-quality training environment for the upskilling of local academia.
Building upon this success and returning to the physical world
The Campus Systems Linux Essentials workshop hosted by LEARN was a resounding success, with great enthusiasm shown by the participants for a physical workshop. This enthusiasm was visible from how well-attended it was as the first physical event in two years. It gave the System Engineers and Network Managers invaluable insights into managing the critical infrastructure that powers several key digital systems at their universities.
Throughout the workshop, attendees worked with Linux systems hands-on, practicing what they had learned and gaining valuable experience. The workshop’s structured and interactive nature ensured attendees could build upon their knowledge as they progressed through the course, leaving them well-equipped to ensure the IT infrastructure of their respective universities served the needs of the many thousands of stakeholders at their respective higher education institutions. Looking towards the future, LEARN will be considering more physical workshops as it continues to support the network/systems engineers and other local academics who play a vital role in ensuring the smooth operation of technology systems that power local academia.