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Lakehead University Magazine Spring/Summer 2004


Opening Doors to the World

By Frances Harding

With the opening of the Advanced Technology & Academic Centre (ATAC)
in 2004, Lakehead University has become a North American leader in offering advanced, user-friendly learning technology in the classroom.

Walter Epp knows first-hand how technology can create opportunities for learning.

In October, the Education professor organized a videoconference to connect his fourth-year class with a high school history and civics class in Buehl, Germany. Then in March, he arranged for His Excellency John Ralston Saul (the Ottawa-based author and husband of Canada's Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson) to have a discussion, by videoconference, with the same class in Thunder Bay and with a class of high school students in Grassy Narrows, and another in Marathon, both in Ontario.

Brendan Hughes, one of Epp's students, was so impressed with the technology that he wrote a letter to the student newspaper, Argus, saying, "Even if you don't like computers, this was very cool for everyone involved."

"The entire videoconference took just over an hour," wrote Hughes. "During that time, German students asked questions that were of interest to them, such as the importance of socio-economic standing among Canadians, what our school system is like, and how Canadians rank different professions. What better way to make young people interested in a variety of subjects than by using such cutting-edge technology?"

New Opportunities

"ATAC has enhanced the learning environment for all our students," says Fred Gilbert, President of Lakehead University. "Every program, delivered on campus and through distance education, will make use of ATAC's remarkable facilities."
The $44-million building, funded in part by Ontario's SuperBuild Growth Fund, is the focus of Lakehead's  strategy to be a leader in technological applications to
post-secondary education. Thanks to innovative partnerships with the private and public sector, Lakehead has enhanced its connectivity to the world and will stay
on the leading edge of technology development.

The 9,520-square-metre facility has 15 smart classrooms and computer labs; robotics, software engineering, and computer science research laboratories; part-time and distance education facilities; a multimedia production studio; and geographic information systems (GIS) labs.

Each one of ATAC's 15 smart classrooms has a teaching podium equipped with fixed and wireless microphones and a touch-sensitive Crestron Controller screen. This enables the Instructor to activate a variety of teaching tools at the touch of a finger. These include: a document camera that can project images of objects as well as text; a VCR and DVD player; a computer with Internet access, CD-ROM and USB ports; and laptop connects for video, audio, power, and network use. Ten of these rooms offer videoconferencing facilities.

"To date, many schools across the country boast of having smart classrooms, but so far none are as advanced, or as user friendly, as Lakehead's classrooms."
— Bob Angell, Director, Technology Services Centre

Partners in Technology

ATAC's high-tech capabilities and leading-edge equipment have been provided by Lakehead's strategic technology partners: Anixter Canada, Bell Canada, IBM Canada Ltd., Nortel Networks, Precision Camera Inc. (PCI), SGI, Sony of Canada Inc., and Sun Microsystems of Canada Inc. "We sat down with all of our partners to come up with an integrated solution to create a better teaching and learning environment on- and off-campus," says Bob Angell, Director of Lakehead's Technology Services Centre. "Lakehead collaborated with its partners to design a system that could be sold globally as a total solution for delivering smart technology to the classroom. To date, many schools across the country boast of having smart classrooms, but so far, none are as advanced, or as user friendly, as Lakehead's classrooms."

Extending Our Reach

ATAC is having a profound effect on the delivery of all courses at Lakehead, as faculty add online resources to their course curricula and begin to use a blend of technologies to facilitate learning.
Lakehead University’s Department of Part-Time & Distance Education offers five undergraduate and graduate degree programs, four certificate programs, and one professional development program in education. In 2003-04, there were 5,400 individual course registrations in 130 different courses that used technology-mediated instruction. This number will continue to increase, as will the number of opportunities for the public to make connections of their own, thanks to ATAC.

This year, Don Davidson, a consultant with the Niagara Enterprise Agency, spoke about economic development by means of a videoconference involving more than 36 people across Northwestern Ontario, including key business leaders. The event was funded by FedNor and was sponsored by Lakehead University, Fast Forward Thunder Bay, and the Northwestern Ontario Technology Centre.

In the fall, the Office for Partnerships for Advanced Skills (OPAS) 2003 Visionary Seminar, featuring Governor of the Bank of Canada David Dodge, was broadcast to Lakehead students, faculty, board members, and individuals of the business community via satellite.

Like many of the faculty, Ian Newhouse, Dean of the Faculty of Professional Schools, thinks ATAC will improve teaching and learning at Lakehead. He sums it up this way:

"A large number of faculty members have been quick to embrace technological tools that enhance the quality of their teaching and accessibility to the students. The Advanced Technology & Academic Centre will match the innovation of technology with the innovation of these instructors, and together the standard for university education will be raised.”

ATAC Future of the North

The ATAC ~ Future of the North Capital Campaign is seeking $9 million from faculty, staff, alumni, corporations, foundations, business, industry, and friends to complete this $44-million project.

“My daughter Beth is a Lakehead graduate,” says John Richardson, ATAC fundraising volunteer and donor. “I support ATAC as both a donor and a volunteer because it provides the infrastructure to create many more opportunities for students to meet their educational needs using the latest technology and advanced methods.”

Larry Hebert (BA’69, HBComm’78) was recently named the Local Fundraising Volunteer Team Chair. He takes over from Russ York, who has been with the ATAC Fundraising Team since its inception. To date, almost 80% of the $44-million project goal has been reached.

Grand Opening celebrations for ATAC include two gatherings on May 13 to recognize donors and supporters, and an Open House on May 29, 2004. For more information on how you can support this campaign, contact Bonnie Moore, Director of Development, at 807-343-8747 or  bonnie.moore@lakeheadu.ca

— Sue Wright (BA’97), Prospect Researcher

Opening Doors to Innovative Learning

"Learning by means of stereo 3-D imagery is the way of the future. It's like having a model right in front of you that you can pick up and manipulate. The potential is enormous."
— Brad Wilson, Associate Professor of Geography

Imagine taking a Geography course that includes a field trip to the Grand Canyon, Alaska Ice Fields, or Death Valley. Soon, Lakehead students enrolled in Brad Wilson's course on Remote Sensing will be able to do just that.

Wilson is planning to create virtual field trips using three-dimensional modeling of landforms with the new equipment in the Advanced Technology & Academic Centre (ATAC). "It's not that expensive," he says. "All you need to make a stereo virtual landscape is a digital elevation model (DEM) and registered satellite imagery or digital air photography. For example, DEMs for all of North America are available from various governments, and imagery is available from several sources including academic colleagues and governments, or can be purchased."

Although stereo 3-D graphics have been used by the Faculty of Forestry and the Forest Environment for many years, Wilson is the first professor on campus to use the new equipment in ATAC’s SGI Virtual Reality Centre as a teaching tool.

The SGI Virtual Reality Centre is equipped with three high-resolution DLP projectors on a 160-degree radius cylindrical screen operated by an SGI Origin 2000/Onyx 2 super computer. With this equipment, Lakehead will soon be able to run any number of high-resolution modeling programs including those illustrating surgical procedures and geomorphic processes.

There are no limits to the applications of virtual reality imaging in a teaching and learning environment, says Wilson. "Learning by means of stereo 3-D imagery is the way of the future. It's like having a model right in front of you that you can pick up and manipulate. The potential is enormous."

— Frances Harding

Opening Doors to Students

"It's clear that students value the blended approach of technology-mediated education. Learners from different geographic and professional situations are able to share their experiences and situations."
— Darlene Steven, Professor of Nursing

Cindy Walker likes the flexibility of Lakehead's Masters of Public Health (MPH) program. A Registered Nurse who works 12-hour shifts in the Hospice Unit at St. Joseph's Care Group in Thunder Bay, she is able to go online at her convenience and study part-time. Like her classmate, Paulette Lacroix, in Vancouver, Walker can listen to lectures by means of archived streaming video, participate in online discussion groups, communicate directly with her professors by email, and submit her assignments online.

"It's clear that students value the blended approach of technology-mediated education," says Darlene Steven, a Professor of Nursing and one of the Graduate Coordinators of the program. "Learners from different geographic and professional situations are able to share their experiences and situations."

In addition to using technology in an innovative way, the MPH program promotes the development of a community of learners, and it instills the concept of self-directed learning and continued professional development.

Accessing some of the great minds in public health is a feature both Walker and Lacroix appreciate. In February, they listened to a lecture by Tim Porter-O'Grady, a Senior Consultant in Nursing from Atlanta, Georgia, entitled "Quantum Leadership in Nursing Practice, Education, and Administration."

In 2003, Lakehead received Honourable Mention in the Awards Program for Excellence in Teaching with Technology, coordinated by the Council of Ontario Universities’ Office for Partnerships for Advanced Skills (OPAS). One of the objectives of the awards program is to promote and share best practices in the use of teaching technologies.

— Frances Harding

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