Bicoastal Classrooms, Virtual Prison Doctors Result of UB Expertise in Internet Videoconferencing

Release Date: November 15, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- In their most harried moments, professors trying to balance the demands of teaching, research and family may feel that the only solution to their overloaded schedules is to be in two places at once.

And now -- for better or worse -- they can.

Advances in high-quality Internet videoconferencing pioneered, in part, by the University at Buffalo have made it possible for two UB faculty members to create bicoastal classrooms, where students at universities separated by thousands of miles can talk to one another and even give presentations together, in real-time.

They also have permitted a third faculty member in the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences to remotely diagnose and treat patients in prisons throughout the state, using an inexpensive, wireless hookup.

"This is the future coming at us," declared James Whitlock, associate director of computing services at UB and a key player in UB's Internet videoconferencing efforts.

Whitlock should know. While many large universities and institutions have attempted videoconferencing over Internet 2 -- the part of the Internet reserved for research and education -- for special, one-time events, UB is one of only a handful in the world that has succeeded in using it for regularly scheduled classes.

Motivated by instructors and technicians at UB who years ago recognized the potential power of high-quality videoconferencing over Internet 2, the Western New York region now is home to the Western New York High Performance Video Network Initiative, an active, grassroots organization of educational, medical and research institutions, all collaborating to perfect this technology for their own use.

"We have proven that UB can accommodate classes reliably through Internet 2," said Lisa Stephens, associate director for distance-learning operations in UB's Millard Fillmore College. "We know it works and we know it saves money; now it's a question of who can we reach where."

Advanced Internet videoconferencing is a cost-saving technology over conventional teleconferencing because signals are sent over the Internet, not over telephone lines, where charges can quickly escalate.

UB's experience with Internet videoconferencing began years ago when a group of individuals in UB's Division of Computing and Information Technology, led by Whitlock, began to see how it could make the technology work for UB.

At the recent Megaconference II -- -- billed as "the world's first totally online conference on the use of teleconferencing in research and education," 3 out of 15 presentations from around the world involved UB as a lead or major presenter.

They included:




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