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Campus convergence

Telephone, video and Internet communications come  together

In 2001, Dartmouth embarked on a computing journey  that started with the deployment of an enormous one-mile square wireless network. It was part of an institutional vision for a computer network infrastructure that would someday combine voice, television and Internet. "Convergence" has now  been achieved as the College switches its cable and satellite television system to the network.  This follows the 2004 migration of the traditional telephone system to VoIP, or voice-over Internet protocol.


Linzi Sheldon '07 and Chris Chan '07 watch CNN on a laptop in Baker-Berry Library.  Dartmouth's new video-over-the-network system enables live transmission of television over both the wired and wireless networks. (photo by Jon Gilbert Fox)

"We've built an infrastructure that supports  video, voice and data," said Brad Noblet,  Director of Technical Services. "Students and faculty today want instant information and communication, no matter where they are.  Convergence makes the laptop the center of your  world."

Dartmouth's new video-over-the-network system is facilitated by Video Furnace, a company based in  Libertyville, Ill., that specializes in encoding  video for broadcast over a data network. Their system allows for live transmission of television programs without separate software like QuickTime or RealPlayer. It works across Macintosh, PC and Linux platforms, and it works on both the wired and wireless computer networks.

The channel offering can also expand with this software, from the current 62-channel capacity to nearly a thousand. Encryption and authentication  provide protection for all video content,  insuring compliance with copyrights and distribution agreements. Only those within the Dartmouth infrastructure can access this programming.

"Video Furnace drastically increases our ability to offer more channels to faculty, staff and students compared with the old analog cable television system. Plus we have the opportunity to program our own channels, so in the future we  might broadcast student projects, classroom  lectures or even guest speakers," said Noblet. "I  think the teaching and learning applications are endless."

Thomas Luxon, the Cheheyl Professor and Director of the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of  Learning (DCAL), agreed. "The new video capability is very exciting. It will certainly  expand the options for students and faculty  members to work together to complete assignments and think creatively about new kinds of critical  assignments," he said.

Incorporating technology into teaching and  learning is one of DCAL's activities, and Luxon, also an Associate Professor of English and a Milton and Shakespeare scholar, envisions student  papers submitted electronically with embedded  links to video footage, or even streaming video quotations.

The technology could be especially useful in  courses that include the study of video recordings of plays. He also thinks that one basic use of Video Furnace will be to make student access to assigned video recordings  easier. Students will be able to access the movies at their convenience from their personal  computers. "It becomes almost video-on-demand,  reserved viewing that can take place anywhere and  anytime," said Luxon.

According to Noblet, there are valuable cost savings by merging the three systems. He said that concentrating on one enhanced network avoided upgrading and maintaining three disparate networks and it resulted in a two-thirds savings.

Both Luxon and Noblet are eager to see the new  and probably unusual applications that this new technology will bring about.

By SUSAN KNAPP

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08