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Videoconferencing System Brings Japanese Students Face-to-Face With U.S. Professors

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Educational institutions worldwide were only recently able to offer students access to communications systems that allow them to interact with professors and other students from remote locations via rich media and videoconferencing technologies. One example of how this technology has helped connect the world is with the implementation of a state-of-the-art, interactive communications system at Hosei University's Kudan Building on its Ichigaya Campus (www.hosei.ac.jp/english) in Tokyo, which spawned a new pre-MBA program. In conjunction with the Hosei University Research Institute, California (HURIC), students in Japan interact with professors in the United States while having the benefit of staying in their native country.

Only a few years ago, Japanese students had to relocate to the U.S. to receive this type of education. Some students - many of whom had established jobs and families, but simply wanted to continue their education - had to leave their homes and go to America for this opportunity. Utilizing California-based Hitachi Software's StarBoard family of products and professors from many of the top U.S. higher educational institutions such as Stanford University; the University of California, Davis; and California State University, Hayward, students at Hosei University can now receive the same quality of education that they would receive if they travel to the U.S.

Interactive Communications

In April 2002, Hosei began to collaborate with CSU Hayward to establish a pre-MBA program. While implementing such a high-quality, interactive communications system, Hosei looked for products that bridged the gap between cost-effectiveness and functionality. The university purchased the IP-based Polycom iPower 9800 and ViewStation 4000 videoconferencing units, which allowed students in Japan to have face-to-face communication with their U.S. professors.

The Polycom iPower 9800 gave Hosei the closest experience to one-on-one interaction that was available. Its offerings of complete multimedia capabilities with real-time collaboration and automatic camera-pointing technologies were features that were most beneficial for this installation. Accompanied by the VS4000 rack-mount system, the videoconferencing system was established to allow Hosei to see live presentations while viewing the presenters in California.

However, there was still an important element missing for both locations to collectively and interactively share data, which was provided by Hitachi Software. Hosei installed two of Hitachi Software's pen-driven StarBoard R-70X rear projection systems in its Tokyo campus, while HURIC (www.huric.org) installed a StarBoard R-70X and an 18" StarBoard EM Panel. The StarBoard R-70X offers a bright picture with a large 70" screen, which makes them a perfect fit for the classroom environment. Powered by Hitachi Software's StarBoard software, an interactive communication and distance learning system was created whereby a teacher in the U.S. was able to give a more inclusive presentation while annotating over shared data, viewed in both locations simultaneously. The feature-packed software bundle installed within the rear-projection units completed the final piece of the installation.

The Next Generation of Distance Learning

When giving a presentation or a lecture in the U.S., professors use a variety of Microsoft applications such as PowerPoint, and it is in these applications that the StarBoard software has been most useful. Offering the capability to control the PowerPoint slide show through the StarBoard software, presenters also have access to a full palate of inks and stamps to annotate over slides, which are automatically saved and can later be viewed as a separate file. When networked, Hosei and HURIC share the data across the Internet so both Japan and California can see the same information. This enables U.S. professors to instruct their classes while Japanese students view the same class lecture and presentation in real time via the IP connections.

Multimedia such as video, voice and computer data is also shared between the campus in Japan and the professors in California. When professors have to emphasize a point within their lectures, they can simply use the stylus pen to annotate on the StarBoard EM Panel in California, and it is instantaneously projected on one of the two R-70X rear-projection displays in Japan.

Currently, Hosei University is in its fourth semester using this system. In only a year, students have the ability to earn their MBA without having to transfer to the U.S. thanks to these technologies. For many, it is the first time they are subject to this type of technology, but students adapt quickly because it is so easy to use and understand that no prior training is required. Hosei plans to continue its use of this system, and would like to expand it to other countries worldwide so more students have access to this type of education, both in the classroom and through international conferences.

- Yoshi Shinkai

Contact Information

Hitachi Software
(888) 615-9600
www.hitachi-soft.com

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.

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