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Trent University and UOIT Pioneering Multi-Institutional Graduate Program Delivery


Groundbreaking Technology Eliminates Geographical Barriers, Bringing Students Together in One Virtual Classroom

Wednesday, December 12, 2007, Peterborough

Trent University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) demonstrated today how the two institutions are redefining graduate education in Canada by removing geographical distance barriers and bringing students together in one virtual classroom through the use of innovative technology.

The two universities are pioneering multi-institutional graduate programming through the use of AccessGrid (AG) for the delivery of the Trent-UOIT Master of Science in Materials Science program. AccessGrid is groundbreaking technology that enables partner institutions and organizations to eliminate geographical barriers and increase the opportunities to work together in Ontario, across the country and beyond, in areas such as highly specialized graduate programming and collaboration on research projects. Trent and UOIT are the first in Canada to utilize the technology for delivery of a complete program.

"The AG capability means that we can bring students and faculty together regardless of where they physically are. This means providing students with access to a much wider range of research and educational expertise than you could expect to access at any one institution,” said Dr. Andrew Vreugdenhil, director of the Materials Science graduate program. “Our delivery of the Materials Science program with UOIT in this way is an excellent first step in pioneering a geographically remote yet very personal experience for advanced teaching and research."

AccessGrid is a group-to-group interaction add-on to the high-performance Shared Hierarchical Academic Research Computing Network (SHARCNET), which is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Ontario Research Fund and SHARCNET’s industrial partners. Trent and UOIT are two of 16 academic partners in Ontario using SHARCNET. AccessGrid sites are equipped with multiple display panels, cameras and microphones, enabling a class instructor to see and hear participants at all locations, and enabling students to ask or answer questions at all participating sites.

“This incredible technology positions UOIT and Trent University at the forefront of multi-institutional programming and will very likely prove to be the foundation for universities across Canada to increasingly offer highly specialized graduate courses and programs in advanced research areas that are in demand by a specific group of students across an unlimited geographical area,” said Dr. William Smith, dean of UOIT’s Faculty of Science. “Removing distance barriers to collaboration will mean more of these types of partnerships will be developed to the great benefit of students, research progress and society in general. We look forward to an ongoing partnership with Trent and aspire to build partnerships and collaborate with institutions worldwide.”

AccessGrid operates over the Internet and provides real-time interaction between locations, allowing users to feed audio and video streams and share slide presentations, data files and various digital sources of information to multiple partners sharing a connection. The incorporation of additional high-tech equipment plays a critical role, including the use of tablet computers, which allow professors to use a stylus pen to make handwritten notes and sketches that appear directly on computer screens at all locations. Unlike webcasts, AG enables users to send their own feeds rather than sending from a server.

In addition to using AG for course delivery, Trent is utilizing the technology for face-to-face meetings involving faculty and research teams at partner SHARCNET institutions and colleagues worldwide, and for establishing a national connection with universities utilizing related grid computing technology.

The Master of Science in Materials Science program focuses on an exciting, multi-disciplinary field that investigates matter and materials across a broad range of scales, interactions, and applications. From nanotechnology to biomaterials, materials scientists develop new materials and techniques and improve existing ones. Graduates will help meet the demand for researchers and scientists in this evolving field.


For more information, please contact:
Dr. Andrew Vreugdenhil, director, Materials Science graduate program, Trent University, (705) 748-1011 x7467