Free course

Discovering computer networks: hands on in the Open Networking Lab

Free statement of participation on completion
Discovering computer networks: hands on in the Open Networking Lab Copyright free Icon
Discovering computer networks: hands on in the Open Networking Lab

Have you ever wondered how the internet gets into your home, school, college or workplace? How do all the computers, phones, tablets, printers and other devices connect and work together?

In this free course, Discovering computer networks: hands on in the Open Networking Lab, you can explore how computer networks operate, discover how data is sent around the internet, put your understanding into practice using an inbuilt network simulator to create your own – simulated – computer networks.


The course starts by looking at ‘home networking’, introducing key concepts and principles as used in a relatively small computer network. Later, the course moves on to looking at ‘commercial networking’, where the same concepts and principles apply, but at a larger scale. Hence, you will gain insight into how computer networks operate in different contexts.

The course uses an embedded online network simulator – giving you the opportunity to put into practice some essential network technology skills.

The course is taught by lecturers at The Open University and working network engineers. Through their breadth of experience, you can gain a sound understanding of the underlying principles that enable computer networks to function, as well as practical guidance in building computer networks.

The course has been developed in collaboration with Cisco, and by enhancing their Packet Tracer tool.

Enrolling on the course will give you the opportunity to earn an Open University digital badge. Badges are not accredited by The Open University but they're a great way to demonstrate your interest in the subject and commitment to your career, and to provide evidence of continuing professional development.

Once you are signed in, you can manage your digital badges online from My OpenLearn. In addition, you can download and print your OpenLearn statement of participation - which also displays your Open University badge.

The Open University would really appreciate a few minutes of your time to tell us about yourself and your expectations for the course before you begin, in our optional start-of-course survey 352. Once you complete the course we would also value your feedback and suggestions for future improvement, in our optional end-of-course survey 353. Participation will be completely confidential and we will not pass on your details to others.

The course was developed by the Open University in collaboration with Cisco 354. Cisco is a world-leading computer networking company with a longstanding record in supporting the education sector.

The development of this course has been funded by the Ufi Charitable Trust 355, which aims 'to help improve vocational skills in the UK's workforce by funding digital solutions for vocational learning.'

This course is endorsed by the CPD Standards Office .  It can be used to provide evidence of continuing professional development but is not accredited learning. We are unable to provide formal learner verification services for participation in our open online courses, which are provided freely by The Open University as self-directed CPD.  

Anyone wishing to provide evidence of their enrolment on this course is able to do so by sharing their Activity Record on their OpenLearn Profile, which is available before completion of the course and earning of the Statement of Participation.

Discovering computer networks: hands on in the Open Networking Lab

Earn this free Open University digital badge if you complete this course! The badge can be displayed, shared and downloaded as a marker of your achievement. The badge is awarded for completing the course and passing the quizzes.

Course learning outcomes

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • set up, configure and troubleshoot simulated computer networks
  • understand the differences between the small-scale networks typically used in homes and the larger-scale networks used in commercial organisations
  • know how these different network are managed
  • have experience of practical activities using simulated versions of each.

First Published: 30/05/2019

Updated: 30/10/2019

You can start this course right now without signing-up. Click on any of the course content sections below to start at any point in this course.
If you want to be able to track your progress, earn a free Statement of Participation, and access all course quizzes and activities, sign-up.

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