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6.899 Special Topics in the Computer Sciences: Computer Networks (Fall 2000)

How the Internet Works
(3.3 0.5 7.5)

Lecturer: H. Balakrishnan
Lecturer's Rating: H. Balakrishnan 6.2/7.0
Prerequisites: 6.033, 6.041, networking experience, research experience
Response rate: 25 out of 36
Difficulty: 5.3/7.0
Overall Rating: 6.0/7.0
Term Evaluated: Fall 2000

Lecturer's Comments:

The goals of 6.899 are to train the next generation of networking researchers, practitioners, and engineers. In particular:

  • To understand the state-of-the-art in network protocols, architectures and applications.
  • To understand how networking research is done.
  • To investigate novel ideas in the area via semester-long research projects.

    Course material is drawn mainly from research papers, Internet RFCs, and industry white papers.

    The class covered many topics, including protocols, congestion control, research, and algorithms. The material was current, but not necessary for non-academic applications. Students generally found the balance between theory and application to be good, though some wished for more theory and some wished for more material on what is actually in use today.

    Students in this class were primarily VI-2 and VI-3 M.Eng and Graduate students, though there were also some seniors. The most important parts of the subject, in order, were the lectures, the readings, and the problem sets.

    Most students took 6.899 simply to satisfy their personal interest in networking, though many of the graduate students took the class as background for research in the field.

    Lecturer H. Balakrishnan was praised as an excellent instructor. He was was very knowledgeable in the field and his lectures were clear and well constructed. He was lively and energetic, made pertinent points, and encouraged participation. Some students found that he tried to squeeze too much material into a limited time. He spoke quickly and sometimes his writing on the board was difficult to follow.

    While TA D. Bansal didn't do much teaching, he was noted for being knowledgeable and helpful when responding to student questions.

    While students generally found the problem sets useful in understanding the material, they noted that they were often very time consuming and challenging. Some sets were also grungy and in need of clarification. The network simulation software could take a lot of time to understand. Also, grading was strict and little partial credit was given.

    There was no required textbook for this class, though some students wished there had been. Most of the readings came from published papers.

    Grades in 6.899 are based on 3 problem sets (20%), participation (5%), a midterm (25%), and a project (50%).

    One student suggest that the class software should be explained better, perhaps in tutorial.

    "I have taken 26 classes in 5 years here - this was the best."

    Dated: February 12, 2001
    Eta Kappa Nu, MIT