Xen Worlds: Creating a virtual laboratory environment for use in education
The Xen Worlds project uses the Xen hypervisor to create a virtual lab environment, providing students with personal networks of fully functional virtual machines (VMs) called a Xen World. The Xen Worlds environment can be provided using minimal hardware, and uses open source software, making it a low-cost option for education. The current hardware, consisting of five modest servers is capable of providing 470 VMs.
Since each Xen World can be isolated from each other, and from the Internet, students can be provided root access to their VMs without the security and privacy issues that would be present in a normal shared lab. In addition, to support off-campus students, Xen Worlds has several features that ensure the system is equally accessible and easy to use, even if the student has limited access to computing or network resources.
To rate the usability and effectiveness of the Xen Worlds environment, student feedback was collected through the use of surveys. The results indicate students feel the environment is an enjoyable and effective teaching method, with comments indicating a desire for a greater number of assignments to be provided.