MiniOS: an instructional platform for teaching operating systems labs

Rafael Roman Otero, Alex Aravind

Delivering hands-on practice laboratories for introductory courses on operating systems is a difficult task. One of the main sources of the difficulty is the sheer size and complexity of the operating systems software. Consequently, some of the solutions adopted in the literature to teach operating systems laboratory consider smaller and simpler systems, generally referred to as instructional operating systems. This work continues in the same direction and is threefold. First, it considers a simpler hardware platform. Second, it argues that a minimal operating system is a viable option for delivering laboratories. Third, it presents a laboratory teaching platform, whereby students build a minimal operating system for an embedded hardware platform. The proposed platform is called MiniOS. An important aspect of MiniOS is that it is sufficiently supported with additional technical and pedagogic material. Finally, the effectiveness of the proposed approach to teach operating systems laboratories is illustrated through the experience of using it to deliver laboratory projects in the Operating Systems course at the University of Northern British Columbia. Finally, we discuss experimental research in computing education and considered the qualitative results of this work as part of a larger research endeavour.

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