Lakehead University creates smart classrooms

Lakehead University is constructing “smart classrooms” as part of its e-education program which will house equipment to enhance the learning experience of its students. At the same time, the university will act as a Canadian beta testing site for Sony of Canada Ltd., whose e-learning products are being utilized.

Through a partnership with Sony, the Thunder Bay, Ont. university will create the Advanced Technology and Academic Centre which will house 15 smart classrooms, varying in size from an auditorium for 300 students down to smaller rooms for 50 students. The state-of-the-art facility will feature Sony’s data projection equipment, audio enhancement, videoconferencing, Web casting and Web storage technology that can be easily operated by faculty members. The centre will also contain geographic information systems (GIS) teaching and research facilities linked to its forestry program, as well as computer labs that will enhance the quality and quantity of academic teaching and research space on campus.

Both the university and Sony are thrilled about the partnership, especially the beta-testing segment of the project.

“To get someone to co-operate at the ground floor is a difficult thing, most people want the finished product,” said Keith Ruddy, central regional dealer, sales manager for Sony. “This product is only semi-finished because we don’t know the true potential of it.”

Dr. Fred Gilbert, president of Lakehead University agreed saying, “That’s a very important component of the agreement – it’s the kicker that we migrate the technology”.

The university has agreed to act as a beta-testing site for two years, with an option to continue at the end of that period, according to Ruddy.

The e-learning equipment will allow students to review a lecture at any time instead of having to rely on their note-taking skills. “For students attending the university, they are going to be able review the lecture in real-time on the university Web site,” Ruddy said. “They can take sections from it, so it’s a good source of review.”

The facilities will also allow the university to grow outside its walls, adding students from remote areas with access to the Internet. “They will be able to provide distance learning either while the actual lecture is going on, or after the fact,” Ruddy stated.

Construction of the centre began last year and will be completed by next spring, in time to open for the fall semester in 2003. The addition of the centre will assist the university to increase enrolment by 1,377 students.

“The justification for the building was based on enrolment growth that is going to occur. We have an influx of students as a result of the double cohort year in Ontario and we are going to see some natural growth within the institution,” Dr. Gilbert stated. “But what we wanted to do was ensure that yes, we would be competitive with other universities that were moving in the technology area, but not only competitive, we wanted to be a leader.”

Students will enjoy enhanced lectures which can include audio, visual and Web-based components created by their professors.

“It gives the faculty member all the bells and whistles related to the teaching environment, the capacity to bring in audio and visual enhancements to the lecture and to interface the students either through Internet or Web-based format,” Dr. Gilbert said. “It broadens our delivery base and I think it gives the student more flexibility in not just the learning environment in the classroom, but being able to access material after classes.”

For details on the project, visit or