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Making global learning a reality at UCL

Publication date: Nov 1, 2006 2:16:32 PM

An innovative Masters programme being run at UCL (University College London) for BT Masters students is enabling students in London, Suffolk and India to interact in real time, both with each other and their tutors, through video-based learning.

Journalists are invited to attend the next tutorial in this exciting programme, taking place at 11am on Friday 3 November in the MSc Room 102, 1st Floor, 66-72 Gower Street, UCL, where they will be able to follow the tutorial and also have the opportunity to use the system to speak to students participating in all of the different venues.

When the course began 15 years ago, just 30 students took it. Academics from UCL, Imperial College London and Kings College London travelled to BT’s research laboratory at Adastral Park in Suffolk to teach the programme. Today, around 600 professionals from BT and associate companies are taking the BT MSc in Telecommunications Engineering at UCL, with some 120 employees of Tech Mahindra BT taking it from Mumbai and Pune in India.

The UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering has developed a working system using IP multimedia technology to enable students across the different venues to share vision, audio and graphics in real time. This way, students on the programme can enjoy cooperative discussions and exchanges despite being in different locations thousands of miles apart.

“With video-conferencing, many confusions get sorted out immediately, and it gives the feeling of belonging,” says student Seshadri Nagasundaram from India. “It also gives us the opportunity to connect with some of the renowned thinkers of the telecom industry,” adds fellow student AC Jacob. Armando Tellez-Velasco, studying from London, says: “Most of us are used to audio-conferencing so we don’t find it awkward.”

“This new technology allows a different distance learning paradigm,” says course leader Professor Chris Todd. “Instead of just sending material to or physically going to where students are located in the world, groups of professional students in particular industries are ‘brought’ into UCL to share a well-proven learning environment; they can do this without losing time on their day job. This technology will, I believe, allow further expansion of high reputation MSc courses to embrace professional groups in industry, in the UK and elsewhere in the world, where loss of work time is critical. “

This innovative teaching technology is just one of a long line of inventions emerging from the UCL Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering Department over the years. In 1904 the head of department Alexander Fleming invented the thermionic valve, the predecessor of the ‘chip’, at UCL. Recently the Department has carried out pioneering work in optical fibres and communication systems leading to a radical concept that could improve security in airports (http://www.ee.ucl.ac.uk/news/uclairpassengertagging).

Notes for Editors

1. To attend on the day or for more information, contact Dominique Fourniol in the UCL Media Relations Office on 0207 679 9728 or d.fourniol@ucl.ac.uk.