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Virtual classroom wins excellence awards

1 August 2005

Virtual classroom wins excellence awards

A virtual classroom being trialled at Waikato University’s Management School has just won a ComputerWorld Excellence Award, building on the university’s track record in innovative eEducation and eBusiness.

The magazine’s 2005 award for Excellence in the Use of IT in Education: Tertiary and Commercial went to senior lecturer Dr Ken Morse for his course on international marketing delivered using Ectus MEDIA interactive tutorials. He found the virtual classroom improved both the students’ performance and their satisfaction.

The judges said it was a well-designed and thought-out solution to a real-world problem. And they praised the course for its student involvement and interactivity, and the way it developed a sense of community in virtual space. The course uses breakthrough technology developed by Ectus, a software company spun off from the University of Waikato.

Ectus MEDIA is a product that integrates existing technologies – rich media capture, video streaming and online collaboration. It allows users to create “digital conversations” by linking the rich media content and the collaboration environment. The software garnered Ectus a separate ComputerWorld award, sponsored by Gen-i for the innovative use of technology.

“The two awards recognise the importance of the collaboration between a customer and a technology developer in the innovation process, and celebrate the delivery of successful outcomes for both,” said Ectus CEO Mark Topping.

The judges said they were impressed with the potential Ectus presents for improving the learning process anytime, anywhere. Ectus has developed a unique product, refining the underlying video-streaming technology by implementing its patent-pending innovations which results in an improved viewing experience, a faster seek time and higher quality of media over internet access speeds.

Ken Morse and Waikato Management School were the first to trial Ectus MEDIA at Waikato University. Working at the chalkface, Dr Morse found that traditional lectures and tutorials left many students dissatisfied, so after talking to Ectus he decided to try a mix of lectures and interactive online tutorials.

“Students could click on a module, watch me speak, do what was asked of them and replay what they couldn’t understand the first time,” he said. International students in particular said they were much happier with the new style of teaching and learning, and they liked being able to ask and answer questions online.

“This award is a credit to both Ectus and to Ken Morse for all his efforts to meet the needs of his students, “ said lecturer Vesna Sedoglavich, who accepted the ComputerWorld award on behalf of Dr Morse at the Auckland ceremony on Friday night. “We’re now teaching our third course using this technology, and the response from both students and teaching staff has been very positive.

“I’m a former international student myself, and I know the difficulties they face. Ectus MEDIA allows them to go over material they didn’t understand the first time.”

Dr Morse thinks this more remote style of learning is the way of the future. “You don’t believe me? Go to the Phoenix University website. It’s got more than 250,000 students and not a classroom in sight.

“The focus is on learning, not teaching. It’s much more convenient for a lot of students, I think assessment is more accurate and there’s better participation from some students. And more than one student has said it’s even made them think! Now ain’t that something?”

Previous Waikato University innovations in eEducation and eBusiness include:

1999 The University of Waikato Online Learning service, won the TUANZ (Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand) Saturn Award for the ‘Most Innovative Use of Information and Communication Technology in Education’.

2000 The University of Waikato won the TUANZ e-business of the year awards and the US based Xplor Global Innovator of the Year. These awards celebrated the groundbreaking results that Waikato Print and Waikato Management School achieved in developing an e-commerce system for on-line student procurement of course readings.


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