Lakehead opens Advanced Technology and Academic Centre

Thunder Bay, Ont.-based Lakehead University late last week unveiled its new high-tech teaching and learning facility, the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre.

According to Bob Angell, director of Lakehead’s technology services centre, the building is a “general purpose facility” to be used for all academic units, and there’s “nothing but IT in the building.”

The facility includes 2,400 Nortel Networks IP phones and will provide the next step up in IT for “Smart classrooms” at the university, Angell said.

The school’s Smart classrooms up until now have included audio/visual support equipment such as PCs, VHS players, DVD players and document cameras, which are “like an electronic overhead,” Angell explained.

In the ATAC this equipment will now be controlled through a touch screen which is “very simple to use — it’s built into a large podium at the front of the class.”

The next step, said Angell, will be to add videoconferencing to the classroom environment. After that, Lakehead plans to add video streaming to the ATAC classrooms. The video streaming will be done through a controller made by Rockleigh, N.J.-based Crestron Electronics Inc. “It will allow the faculty member or instructor to have self-determination in the way the technology works for them,” Angell said.

While students on campus reap the benefits of the enhanced system, those taking courses offsite will also gain advantages from the technology. In a statement, the university said that through the ATAC, it has “substantially enhanced its ability to reach northern and global communities and students who might not otherwise be able to attend on-campus courses.”

In a statement, Gwen Wojda, the university’s director of part-time and distance education, explained that Lakehead offers over 130 courses annually using various forms of online enhancements, while eight undergraduate and graduate programs are available completely at a distance.

Angell emphasized that the use of the ATAC will not be limited to “tech-driven” programs such as engineering and computer science. “There is no computer science focus in the building. We have (comp sci) labs that have the same ability….The Smart classroom is for every faculty.” Some of the other academic programs at Lakehead that will benefit from the ATAC include education, math, history, forestry and nursing.

Other than Nortel, Lakehead’s strategic partners in this project include Bell Canada, IBM Corp., Precision Camera Inc. and Sony of Canada.

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