A large screen shows students in Los Angeles, Goa (India) and Haifa (Israel) casually strolling into their respective classrooms.
Students in Hyderabad, India sit with open laptops, checking class notes. Everyone settles down, but there’s a twist. Stephen Lu, a researcher, educator, entrepreneur and strategist in technological innovation at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering asks, “Students in Technion, Haifa, can you see and hear us, too? What about the students in Goa and Hyderabad?”
“Yes,” comes the prompt reply, and with that the students are set for a two-hour class that included a 20-minute explanation by Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Professor Mirian Eriz about a cross-cultural exercise that would be part of the students’ international experience.
USC Viterbi successfully established iPodia, its classroom without borders, in India this semester. Using video-conferencing facilities at the Birla Institute of Technology & Science (BITS) campuses in Goa and Hyderabad, USC was able to conduct the class with a four-site connection — the first time two campuses of the same university simultaneously took the iPodia class together.
BITS students took Lu’s class on “Principles and Practice of Global Innovation” along with their peers from USC Viterbi in Los Angeles and from Technion in Haifa.
“It is the next wave of distance learning — not only is USC going to the world, iPodia brings the world to USC, giving our students a global experience,” Lu said.
“I wait all week for this class,” said BITS student Dhruv Gambhir.
“It’s a welcome break from traditional classroom structure, and I am extremely happy that I took this course,” added Taufeeq Rahmani, a fellow student at the institute.
Technology has made geographical location irrelevant. Students participate in lecture discussions, cross-cultural exercises, case studies, reading assignments and group projects. The professor tracks the progress of the students, adjusting to their needs on a weekly basis. The typical team for a group project consists of students from all three countries, giving them opportunity for interaction.
Other universities in the iPodia Alliance are Peking University (China), National Taiwan University (Taiwan), Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (South Korea) and RWTH Aachen University (Germany). USC provides administrative support for all alliance members free of charge. The alliance is now expanding to include other universities such as the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai), Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil), Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (Abu Dhabi) and Makerere University (Uganda).