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Interactive learning leveraging web 2.0 technologies

Student raising hand in classroomToday any institution in some remote tier 2 city or town in a developing country has access to the whole wide world of information and curriculum available on the internet. However, there are great professors, teachers and tutors with a wealth of information in a city about 50 KMs away or perhaps in even 500 KMs away, maybe in the same time zone or a different time zone. How do you tap into the knowledge and experience of these teachers?

Today, technology exists in the form of collaborative, video and audio integrated tools that can transform how students learn and teachers teach. Web 2.0 tools like facebook, MySpace, twitter, blogs etc, play a critical role allowing students and teachers to have personalized spaces on the web. Teachers can create discussion forums for the students to connect, discuss after class, work together on projects, and ask questions.

Cisco Collaboration technologies which include Telepresence, Unified Communications, Cisco Digital Media solutions and Cisco WebEx suite of technologies, provide a very powerful audio, video and web integrated virtual classroom experience almost mimicking a face-to-face experience albeit over the internet.

These tools expand the learning opportunities for students in remote regions around the world. The teachers are able to share knowledge, for free or for a fee. In the process, students, teachers and the learning providers all benefit from this collaborative distance learning education business model. One such example is a company called Lakshya Networks, started by 3 students in a small town called Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, one of the central states of India. Cisco provided funding for the technology, and initial mentoring on how to use the technology. Since then the students connected with tutors in the nearby city, who could offer special afterschool tutoring services to the students in the nearby villages for a small fee. The students got extended support for English and Math while the tutors were able to reach out to new learners through this medium and the small entrepreneurial tutoring company created a profitable business model bridging the gap between the students and tutors.

This model has scaled globally with tutoring services now offered to students online in a group or personal setting in many different parts of the world at school and higher education level. Many institutions worldwide including the likes of MIT, Stanford, offer online courses that leverage online internet based audio-video integrated tools for teaching including for degree programs and certificate courses.

The Internet has opened the door for tools that enable creating and sharing knowledge allowing learners to build critical 21st century skills, which they would have otherwise missed out. Teachers and learners can engage in an enhanced collaborative learning experience. The possibilities abound and they are here to stay.

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Technology – Bridging the gap in higher education

As countries around the world like India, China, Vietnam, Philippines, Brazil, Mexico etc gear up to provide education to 400 million or more students, the public and private education institutions and their physical infrastructure alone will not suffice. Using the network as a platform, and technologies such as Cisco Unified Communication, Cisco WebEx, Cisco Telepresence, Cisco Wi-Fi Mesh networking, higher education institutions can enable themselves to supplement in-class curriculum with online curriculum as well. Professors from other institutions within the country or abroad would give lectures online that the students can view in a classroom via video conferencing or individually at home or at their desks. As the global economic and urbanisation trends shift the focus to the east, universities need to provide training to the students for employment and connect with the employers for job creation. Training goes beyond regular curriculum to include specific vocational training in finance, retail, BPO, software, healthcare etc.

In a connected world, the students across the world use similar technologies such a mobile phones, iPods, computers and the Internet. They have access to same content with the internet having democratised access to information. Leveraging the same network, the institutions could partner with employers to provide the required job skills training while they finish up their high school or college education. This will help employers to identify talent early on to meet their demands and reduce on-the-job training when new entrants come on-board.

Next generation learning environments also provide a collaborative environment for students within a country as well as outside the country to work on projects together despite the distance and learn from each other. Examples could range from collaboration on agricultural research, computer science, management, new business ideas etc.

Cisco does a lot today in the space of Education through global network academies providing networking skills to students even with high school diplomas. Cisco also donates equipment and funds research with select universities and provides financial support to educational institutions and volunteer projects through its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Cisco solution teams are innovating solutions to address the needs of these new cities and communities around the world.

On a Saturday morning in February 2008, executives and leaders from the Cisco’s marketing organisation volunteered for a local charity ‘Ashwini Charitable Trust’ near Cisco’s Bangalore campus. The task was to build a library and a computer centre for the underprivileged kids in the area. The relationship between the charity and Cisco’s marketing organisation has since grown. The kids in the high school were taught how to use computers, access the internet, collaborate online, and use digital cameras for video and photography. As part of their summer project in June 08, each team of these high school and college kids produced excellent videos that were judged by Cisco’s leadership team in Bangalore. Since then these young students are using computers to learn from the new web based content relevant to their curriculum and are very confident young people, aspiring to careers not just in technology but other fields as well.

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We, in Cisco solutions marketing organisation, want to enable the dreams and aspirations of these young students and education institutions across the world through our extensive portfolio of products, solutions and services.

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Welcome to the Cisco in Higher Education Blog

February 18, 2009 at 4:45 pm PST

Cisco is pleased to launch the new Higher Education blog, and we hope that you will be an active participant in this community of interest.  We will be exploring topics that are critical to our key education customers, and we look forward to active and spirited discussion between our higher education customers and those of us within Cisco who focus on the education market.

We’d like to start out discussing some of the trends that we’re seeing in education, and how we believe that technology is helping colleges and universities to address some of their most pressing challenges: trying to do more with less, enhancing safety and security, and creating next-generation learning environments for the 21st century.

As the world shifts away from centralized, hierarchical control and puts more power in the hands of end users, Cisco brings a practical vision and real solutions to help public sector innovators stay ahead of cultural change.  In an on-demand society, Cisco enables a connected way of living that can foster economic growth, expand access to public services, and keep people of all ages engaged. By harnessing the power of many ideas and voices, Cisco is inspiring new connections and creating new opportunities.

Cisco is a change agent in enabling quality education. In a connected, on-demand society, learning is everywhere, just a few keystrokes away. Cisco works closely with schools and higher education to anticipate and respond to the demand for new teaching and learning approaches that promote employability and social equity. Cisco delivers the secure, seamless communication and real-time interaction that students, faculty, and staff expect—while enabling a safe environment, improved administrative efficiency, and access to engaging, lifelong learning opportunities.

At Cisco, we’re working hard to help create a connected way of living and learning. Cisco® solutions give educational institutions the ability to create a connected ondemand learning environment — removing barriers to communications, enabling real-time interactions, and expanding access. Education opportunities are everywhere. Our goal is to help make those connections happen by streamlining campus operations and giving you the tools to enable access for any device at any time. Our vision is a connected campus that inspires students, faculty and staff to engage in lifelong learning.

Please join us in this discussion.

Thank you,

Renee Patton,

Manager, Industry Marketing

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