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University of Fredericton: Taking students beyond the classroom

- December 14, 2012 10:14 am

One of the things I find so amazing about Canadian SMBs is their creativity. Small companies can’t afford to be stagnant – in today’s connected world competition can not only come from local or national companies, but global enterprises. In these cases, the creative use of technology can be a competitive difference maker for small and mid-sized businesses.

For online-only companies, this is doubly true.

One great Canadian example is the University of Fredericton (UFred), an accredited online university that offers certificate, diploma and degree programs. Like traditional universities, UFred students attend live classes; however, as an innovator, UFred delivers its material using live, online lectures and seminars with its secret sauce: WebEx.

Everyone knows WebEx excels for business, but UFred is showing how outside-the-box thinking can lead to fantastic solutions in non-business applications. Using WebEx, UFred students and faculty can not only interact as if they were in the same room, but by taking advantage of tools to share video and other assets, they are going beyond what is possible in the classroom. It’s a great example of how Cisco technology is helping foster innovation.

To find out more about this unique example of small business innovation in Canada, I sat down with Peter Mersereau, Operations Manager at the University of Fredericton.

Gary Isaacs: Hi Peter, thanks for joining us today, can you tell us a little bit about your role at UFred?

Peter Mersereau: As Operations Manager, my number one priority is customer support in student services, faculty services, and technical services. We want our students and faculty to be happy. Our goal is for all of our students and professors to have the absolute best learning experience possible.

Gary: Give us a bit of information on the University and the technology challenge you were facing that led to your WebEx deployment.

Peter: UFred offers graduate degrees through our business school, Sandermoen School of Business, in Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) and Master of Business Administration (MBA), as well as Diploma-to-Degree programs in Criminal Justice and Business, and several diplomas and certificates in Health and Safety. As a school that is completely online, our challenge was to be able to connect professors and instructors to students all over the world.

Gary: Run us through the steps that you took at the UFred to evaluate your technology requirements, and why you decided on Cisco WebEx.

Peter: We knew that we needed software that would allow us to replicate a classroom setting, but we also wanted software that would go beyond that. We wanted a solution that would let students and professors share video, presentations, applications, and allow us to collaborate on documents in real-time using audio or text – or even enable breakout rooms for group sessions. With Cisco WebEx, we got all of that, and more. We use Training Center for all of our online classrooms, Meeting Center for all of internal and student group meetings, and Support Center in Technical Services to remotely access our students’ computers to guide them through technical issues.

Gary: Did you evaluate other online meeting tools before choosing WebEx?

Peter: We did. Over the years, the University has used several pieces of software for online classes, but those applications always left us looking for something more.

As Canada’s first university to deliver classes exclusively through WebEx, UFred is already seeing the benefits of the platform and looking at how further Cisco deployments could benefit students. Stay tuned for part two of my conversation with Peter, where we’ll talk about what other small organizations stand to gain from similar solutions.

And as always, ask me your questions about SMB technology and innovation at askgary@external.cisco.com.

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