University of Calgary

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sallisVideo conference creates global classroom for music students

By Gail Fredrickson

Building on an idea, Fred Sallis, professor of the U of C’s music department recently invited Laura Zattra, a music researcher from the University of Padova, Italy, to deliver a lecture to his sketch studies class. She did that, and brought her students along to participate. They were joined by a third group, Christoph Neidhöfer’s class from the Department of Music at McGill University in Montreal. The three universities were connected in real-time by the video conferencing facilities in the Teaching and Learning Centre, located in the BioSciences building.

Earlier this year, Sallis and Neidhöfer delivered lectures to each other’s classrooms using the video conferencing technology, which has been available to professors and students since 1995. The Teaching and Learning Centre has held video conference sessions with global classrooms from many countries around the world, but the music session was the first to Italy.

Sallis says that although some students were nervous about the newness of it all, the opportunity wasn’t missed to participate and discuss from the various perspectives and three different languages—English, French and Italian. “Zattra gave an excellent presentation in English, but questions were in every language represented. This is also a very good example for our students about why language capability is important from a career point of view,” says Sallis. “We all agree it’s important for the students on all sites to be confronted with the world as it is. We’re bringing the world to the U of C and we’re not paying a cent. I’m really pleased about that.”

“Video conference sessions are used to enhance and internationalize the student experience, bringing an intercultural perspective to every area of study”, says Joanne Carruthers, Teaching and Learning Centre. “Students interact with distinguished speakers and researchers from around the world, and have the opportunity to participate in global classrooms. This is a definite enrichment to the curriculum and the learning environment.”

Student Tanya Hage agrees, “Although it was a little daunting, it was very informative and I appreciated the opportunity to be a part of it. With the lecture coming from Italy, we were exposed to a different web of knowledge than what we have in North America. There are very different ways of learning musicology and we don’t often get a European perspective. There aren’t any boundaries to information when you’re learning by videoconferencing.” She adds that hearing a lecturer present their research gives meaning to the condensed article full of facts and figures the students hold in front of them.

The music video conference lectures are tied to specific courses and the material is examinable. McGill and U of C will continue to build on their sessions, continuing to use scholars from other parts of the world. As Sallis remarks, “We’re hearing lectures from the best, from people around the world. We’re breaking down borders, opening up horizons and inviting new perspectives.”