A computer lab is a classroom designed for teaching or studying. The computer lab should be designed with ease of use, security and reliability in mind. There is no perfect lab, and each school will need to find the best way to create a lab that fits the needs of its students and its budget.The goal of a lab is to teach efficiently, and an underpowered computer can hinder the learning process.
The student stations are the computers that the students will use on a regular basis. The processing power of each computer is dependent on the lab's purpose. Even the lowest-end computer currently on the market is sufficient to work on office software or for basic programming lessons. If the lab is to be used for video or photography production, video game programming or virtualization lessons, higher-end computers with more processing power and larger amounts of memory will be required. The operating system of the client workstation is up to the teacher and/or information technology team that will maintain the system, but it should be locked down to prevent students from installing unauthorized software, communicating on the Internet or doing other prohibited activity.
The management station is the computer that the teacher will use. It will usually be identical to the client station. The management station, however, will have direct access to the server and the management system of the switch, be able to monitor the client stations and have a better access to external resource such as Internet or communication software. The management station also has better security because it makes a more interesting target for students wanting to play hacker and because of its access to external resources.
The server in a computer lab can be used to fulfill several needs. It should store a copy of each workstation's operating system. The workstations can be made to connect to that server to reinstall the operating system in its clean but configured state in case of a virus or simply as maintenance. The server can also be used to filter the external information the clients can access, for example, blocking Facebook but leaving the Library of Congress accessible. The server can also store the profile of each student and back up their work from session to session.
Networking is one of the most important parts of computer labs, and in many school computer labs, a hub or a switch is one of the ways this can be accomplished. The switch is the network equipment to which all the computers are connected. A switch can be configured so the clients cannot connect to each other, to limit communication to groups created for a specific project and to grant or refuse access to external resources.
Optional equipment can include printers, scanners, cameras, projectors and headsets. Each piece of equipment should be carefully considered, as the investment needed (for the printers, scanners, cameras and projector) or the high breakage ratio (for the headsets) can adversely affect the budget of the lab and its ability to run smoothly.
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