Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 30, 2000

'Virtual' learning commons gets $1-million CANARIE grant

A Virtual Veterinary Medicine Learning Commons that will allow Canada's veterinary colleges to better share information and resources has received a $1-million grant from the CANARIE Learning Program.

The multi-regional, knowledge-based virtual community is being led by the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College and will connect three of Canada's four veterinary colleges: OVC, Atlantic Veterinary College in Prince Edward Island and Faculté de médecine vétérinaire at St. Hyacinthe in Montreal.

The award was announced this week by Industry Minister John Manley. The project was one of 10 selected to receive funding through the CANARIE 1999 competition. With matching funds from the universities and industry partners, the total project amount is close to $2 million. CANARIE was established by Industry Canada in 1993 to encourage businesses and learning institutions to develop collaborative projects that use advanced Internet technologies and address structural barriers to online learning.

The three universities, along with Lifelearn Inc., an industry partner, will use CA*net3 (CANARIE's national optical R & D Internet) to develop and share interactive multimedia educational modules. Although many other Canadian institutions participate in distributed learning programs, this is the first time several providers have collaborated to share professional program training on a broad geographic basis.

"This unique confederation will allow our students to learn in ways never before possible," said OVC dean Alan Meek. In the past, the universities' ability to share resources has been limited by technology, which compromised detail and definition. The virtual learning commons will include state-of-the-art equipment such as network video servers and special Internet links, providing faculty and students access to interactive educational modules and internet-based video conferencing.

"This broadband technology means that students will be able to use and share video-rich multimedia as learning tools and collaborate on projects with other veterinary students and faculty across the country," Meek says. The modules will be developed by the schools and Lifelearn.

Gary Smith of OVC's Learning Technology Services will serve as project manager. He says the virtual learning commons will allow the universities to draw from each other's core strengths and resources to improve teaching and learning, especially when it comes to faculty expertise. "The specialists that have only been available to students based on geography are now available to everyone."

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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