NDU's campus has no borders thanks to telepresence

Friday - 12/3/2010, 12:58pm EST

The National Defense University has two primary campuses: North Campus in Washington, DC and the South Campus located in Norfolk, Va. But their students are all around the world, and thanks to the NDU iCollege, they don't miss out on anything, from guest speakers to special lectures.

From U.S. DoD Combatant Commands (COCOMS) stationed around the world, and students from Hawaii to Sweden, the NDU iCollege's video teleconferencing capabilities allow NDU to share their resources and courses more broadly.

Installed in July 2009, the NDU iCollege maintains a telepresence room equipped with a speaker lectern with interactive capabilities and 18 separate workstations with video teleconferencing screens.

"When we decided to purchase the system, it took several months to get approval and to work through security issues," Jolly Sienda, Outreach Professional at the NDU iCollege said. "Now, we can see the benefits of video teleconferencing usage with our students and stakeholders."

In the past year and a half, NDU iCollege has continued to incorporate their telepresence capabilities into various areas of the university, and seen the benefit not only to their mission, but also to their bottom line.

"For example, the capability of having a guest speaker from Washington, D.C., talk to students in Sweden without travel costs is a tremendous cost savings," Sienda said in an e-mail to Federal News Radio. "We've done this twice this year and we are planning other video teleconferences next year."

It also allows the college to provide expert faculty speakers in off-site courses, Sienda said, without having to send faculty off campus. In early 2010, the college conducted meetings with academic partners in Singapore to plan a cybersecurity conference. Even basic coordination and planning between the university's two campuses is made easier.

The NDU iCollege uses a Polycom RPX HD system, Sienda says, which further diminishes the sense of distance.

"When we are able to connect two teleconference systems, the result is very high quality, almost like you are together in person," Sienda said.

The iCollege continues to find new uses for its telepresence room, most recently adding students in Hawaii.

"Our use of telepresence continues to grow as the adoption of the technology grows throughout the Federal government and particularly within the Department of Defense," Sienda said. "This is a powerful tool for information sharing and networking with the college's students and stakeholders."