Virginia Tech takes lead in adopting the latest distance learning technology

BLACKSBURG, Va., Oct. 27, 2006 – The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is proving it is well prepared to respond to the future challenges of providing advanced distance learning content over newly emerging distribution technologies.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held recently for the new Randolph 100L interactive video conference room. The room is designed with maximum flexibility to meet the demands of today's distance learning classrooms. This flexible design is coupled with the University's upgraded infrastructure including enhanced video bridging capabilities and ease of access to multiple video conferencing protocols.

Classes will be delivered from the new classroom primarily to the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in support of its graduate education mission. Robert E. Lindberg, president and executive director of the NIA, said, “Virginia Tech’s leadership in adopting the latest distance learning technology, using multiple high resolution video channels, establishes a new standard for high-quality course delivery to and from NIA.” The NIA has upgraded its classrooms in Hampton, Va., to be compatible with Virginia Tech’s new technology, and is now encouraging its use with other NIA consortium universities.

Working together to redesign this room was Glenda Scales, associate dean of computing and distance learning, college of engineering, Mark Harden, manager of Virginia Tech’s Video Broadcast Services, and Randy Smith of mechanical engineering.

With the availability of increased bandwidth and the capability to provide high-quality and reliable videoconferencing over the Internet, Scales, Harden, and Smith oversaw the conversion of Randolph 100L from ATM video conferencing to H.323, the standard for interactive videoconferencing that utilizes the Internet Protocol.

The new H.323 video conference system provides enhanced instructional delivery by adding a data channel. The data channel allows for the presentation of high-resolution computer output and digital document cameras along with simultaneous viewing of the instructor.

Improved integration of the system is provided thru an intuitive touch panel control that provides simpler and more uniform operation of the video conferencing system. The touch panel control also incorporates the latest technologies including improvements in camera control, audio input, and video monitoring.

To complete the transformation, upgrades to the classroom include the installation of three VGA projectors and screens so students can easily view local and remote video as well as the detailed data and digital document camera.

The distance learning experience is greatly enhanced for the students by improving what they see and hear in the classroom even though it is being delivered from another location. The new Randolph 100L classroom fits the bill for improved communications.

The College of Engineering at Virginia Tech is internationally recognized for its excellence in 14 engineering disciplines and computer science. The college's 5,500 undergraduates benefit from an innovative curriculum that provides a "hands-on, minds-on" approach to engineering education, complementing classroom instruction with two unique design-and-build facilities and a strong Cooperative Education Program. With more than 50 research centers and numerous laboratories, the college offers its 1,800 graduate students opportunities in advanced fields of study such as biomedical engineering, state-of-the-art microelectronics, and nanotechnology. Virginia Tech, the most comprehensive university in Virginia, is dedicated to quality, innovation, and results to the commonwealth, the nation, and the world.