Cisco launched its Connected North program yesterday, with the Government of Nunavut and a number of other public and private partners. The initiative aims to bring a fresh approach to learning for students in Canada’s North.
It uses Cisco’s high-definition video communication and collaboration technology to connect students who are thousands of kilometers apart. Through two-way video calling, students in remote Aboriginal and Inuit communities can connect with their peers throughout Canada. The initiative is a $1.6 million investment by Cisco in Canada’s North.
“By leveraging our technology expertise and uniting key private and public sector partners, we are aiming to make Connected North a vital and productive component of northern communities that will bring new levels of opportunities to inhabitants,” said Nitin Kawale, president, Cisco Canda. “And what you see here today is only the beginning. The program’s results in Iqaluit will be studied and used to develop longer term strategies for sustainability throughout Canada.”
Through the initiative, students can speak with kids their own age and teachers throughout Canada, as well as get lessons from experts across the country. The aim is to get students to attend class regularly.
“Working together, we can utilize new technology in all our schools to make the classroom experience more exciting and engaging,” said Paul Quassa, Minister of Education, Nunavut, who was present at the announcement.
The virtual education program uses Cisco’s TelePresence and Partners in Research’s Virtual Research on Call (VROC) platform.
Using prioritized satellite bandwidth donated by SSi Micro, grade six, seven, and eight classes in Iqaluit are getting a fresh approach to learning.
Preliminary studies from York University show that teachers and students view the program positively. A majority (89 per cent) of students reported that the remote learning experience made science more enjoyable. Eighty-one per cent said they learned more in the virtual sessions than they did through traditional classroom learning.
Following yesterday’s announcement, two additional schools – one in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, and a high school in Arviat, Nunavut, will be joining the program in September of this year.
It’s not just for schools: Connected North will also focus on bringing psychiatric and youth mental health services to the North, using Cisco’s Telepresence high-definition video links. For this initiative, the RBC Foundation and Cisco have joined with the Tele-Link Mental Health Program developed by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.
Tele-Link uses videoconferencing and other technologies to give timely access to specialist services. With funding from the RBC and technology from Cisco, Tele-Link will launch in select Nunavut health centres in September 2014.