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Q&A with the University of Fredericton part 2: Differentiating through technology

- December 20, 2012 10:14 am

In the first half of my chat with Peter Mersereau, Operations Manager at the University of Fredericton (UFred), we talked about the challenges facing an online university, such as bringing students and faculty together in meaningful and productive ways. We also discussed how tools like WebEx help UFred offer experiences that go beyond the traditional classroom.

In the second half of our conversation, we discuss how UFred has turned its technology into a key differentiator to set it apart from the crowd.

Gary Isaacs: The University of Fredericton is Canada’s first university to deliver classes exclusively through Cisco WebEx. Can you tell us how you use WebEx to educate students and why this is different than other online universities?

Peter Mersereau: I think the biggest difference between UFred and other online universities is the live classroom we provide through Cisco Training Center. Other schools in Canada will use many of the same tools that we use – quizzes, exams, assignments, threaded discussions, etc.; however, only UFred provides a live online classroom through WebEx for lectures and discussions. Some professors even use WebEx to offer Office Hours. If other schools do offer some sort of live online classroom, we know that ours is superior because we’re using the business standard – and, in the Sandermoen School of Business, offering tools that executives use in their regular job is important to us.

Gary: What have been the most significant business and academic benefits you’ve experienced since moving to WebEx?

Peter: There are a number of benefits we’ve seen since moving to WebEx. First, it’s reliable. We know that after we provide an orientation to our students (meet them, test their headset, show around Training Center and our online campus), we do not have to constantly worry about issues arising. The students and professors all agree that WebEx has been very user friendly.

Second, it allows us to connect. Because of WebEx, we are now able to host meetings, academic or business, with anyone, anywhere in the world. We have partners, students, and faculty and staff from across North America and around the globe, and we use WebEx to bring us all together.

Finally, it’s remote. By using WebEx Support Center, Technical Services is better able to serve our students and faculty.  We know that if they have a problem, we can now see it and fix it.  We know that we are keeping our students and faculty happy.

Gary: I heard you’re looking at expanding your Cisco deployment in the future. Can you elaborate on how WebEx has prepared the University of Fredericton for future growth, both in a technology and business sense?

Peter: Cisco products have become the business standard; anytime we can use a Cisco product, we’re going to do that. When WebEx Social becomes available in Canada as Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), we want to be the first to use it; not just the first university to use it, but the first university, organization or business to use it. We have several communities we would like to build from our programs, certainly a Health and Safety and a Business community. It would just be one more way to bring UFred and students together. And, most importantly, we know that as we grow, Cisco will be right there to help us.

Gary: What tips do you have for other small organizations looking to deploy similar solutions?

Peter: It’s easy to think that one of the world’s largest IT companies might not be interested in working with smaller- and medium-sized organizations; however Cisco is just the opposite. They have helped us with anything we have needed, from our first conversations with Cisco’s New Brunswick Director Tony MacKinnon and regional VP Rod Murphy, to where we are now. They’ve been there for support and continue to be there for any questions we have along the way.

UFred really demonstrates there are no boundaries to how SMB’s can use technology to better compete or differentiate. Read the full University of Fredericton case study on our website.  If you would like to learn more about how your SMB can achieve similar results, email me at askgary@external.cisco.com.

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