IT Focus news briefs, April 1, 2005

Video brings med students closer

Medical students in northern B.C. don’t have to travel way down south to attend classes at the University of British Columbia (UBC) any more, thanks to a new video-conferencing system. The technology lets students at UBC’s northern arm, the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, attend classes held at UBC’s Vancouver campus, some 900 kilometres away. Students stationed in Prince George experience lectures via three large screens displaying the Vancouver-based professor in real-time and teaching materials (over-head projections, PowerPoint presentations, etc.). Students can ask questions by the microphones on their desks. Professors manage the distributed learning experience by touch-screens on their lecture podiums. MTS Allstream Inc. put the platform together. According to a press statement, UNBC students can now complete most of their training via video-conferencing, although they still have to attend the UBC’s Vancouver campus for the first semester of the four-year Northern Medical Program, which is meant to educate doctors for work in rural areas.

Too much tech doesn’t help

A profusion of electronic communications devices doesn’t always lead to better communication. In fact, sometimes quite the opposite is true, according to a recent study. Mobile phones, portable e-mail devices and other electronic doodads are not helping many of today’s office workers communicate, according to Avaya Inc.’s 2005 Global Research Report. Sixty-four per cent of office workers that the network gear maker surveyed carry two or more technology devices. Nonetheless, “over half…have missed an important business meeting, customer inquiry, contract or new business lead because they were not able to e-mail or call someone,” the report says. Avaya’s response to this technology failure? More technology. The firm concludes that communication apps enhanced with the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) might solve the problem. SIP supports find me-follow me, voice-to-video interaction and further functions for better connectivity. Others say office workers should worry less about answering every phone call and more about achieving a balance between work and home life.

Big IP switch at Montreal school

If, as industry analysts suggest, it’s important to ensure your data network is robust before you even consider voice over IP (VoIP), the Universit