UIC Researchers Probing New Modes of Creative Instruction and Collaboration Enabled by Gigabit R&E Networks

Participants: Jason Leigh

Chicago, IL

November 7, 2007

Broadcasting Live from Chicago in High-Definition, It’s Video Game Design Class!

UIC Researchers Probing New Modes of Creative Instruction and Collaboration Enabled by Gigabit R&E Networks

CHICAGO - This semester, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) computer science professor Jason Leigh is teaching a video game design course at UIC and remotely at Louisiana State University (LSU) using high-definition (HD) video streaming over the 10 Gigabit-per-second (Gbps) Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) between Chicago and Baton Rouge.

At LSU, Leigh’s high-resolution image fills a large HD projection display equipped with a two-way audio channel, where students, overseen by LSU associate professor of computer science Gabrielle Allen and professor of composition and digital music Stephen Beck, follow the same syllabus and course requirements as their UIC classmates. At UIC, Leigh and his students see and interact with LSU students.

Leigh accepted LSU’s invitation to teach his class remotely, as he saw an opportunity to understand how to offer a distributed course where classroom activity and content are extremely dynamic and require the use of high-resolution media.

“How do you demonstrate video games that have HD graphics and sound to remote sites as part of a regular classroom activity?” asked Leigh. “How do you teach the subtle nuances of interaction, over distance, when interaction requires use of physical devices, such as a special game controller? How can students work on team projects together separated by long distances and time zones? Moreover, how do you make remote education compelling and effective?”

Leigh, in his role as director of UIC’s Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL), currently researches advanced cyberinfrastructure tools and techniques to foster scientific collaboration over distance. He wanted to understand how these tools can transfer over to the classroom, to not only teach specialized subject matter, but train the next-generation work force to support and advance cyberinfrastructure.

“I want the classroom to have the same full-scale real-time telepresence quality that we are developing for the research community,” said Leigh. “Computer graphic images are so visually intensive and engaging, that if I solve problems at this level, it will be much easier to adapt the methodology to other courses and areas of research.”

Leigh’s video game design course involves creative teamwork, high-resolution graphics, guest lectures from industry experts, and interactivity. HD captures the subtle nuances of interaction with high-resolution graphics over distance, especially when the interaction requires use of physical devices such as a special game controller.

Currently, the teams use online discussion groups, though future classes will experiment with more dynamic environments. For example, EVL is developing a “Cyber-Commons” concept that Leigh believes will replace the traditional computer labs where students work individually on homework assignments. These Cyber-Commons will link students in virtual space much like many popular social networking sites, but with advanced technologies that allow virtual presence and interactive tools that foster high-quality collaboration and projects over high-speed networks.

Today’s schools are collaborating in order to compete - to export and/or import renowned talent from other schools to make their students more competitive when searching for jobs. LSU sought out Leigh, a visualization and video gaming expert, to teach his game-oriented graphics class this semester, to support an initiative for a new campus wide curricula in digital media.

Last spring, LSU professor Thomas Sterling, an expert on high-performance (HPC) computing, taught the first HD video broadcast, distributed HPC course both locally and to other schools in the U.S., lecturing students in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina and the Czech Republic. The HD-enhanced streaming provided a highly engaging experience where students could easily listen to the professor’s lectures and clearly see supplemental materials being broadcast.

Leigh’s game class transmission goes out from a classroom at EVL over I-WIRE, a dedicated 10 Gbps network that connects universities and research institutions within the state of Illinois. I-WIRE connects EVL to the StarLight optical exchange in Chicago, where EVL connects to LONI, which is deployed on the National LambdaRail (NLR) infrastructure, as well as to other regional, national and international networks. Network access and HD capability at LSU is provided by the LSU Center for Computation & Technology.

About University of Illinois at Chicago, Electronic Visualization Laboratory
The Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) is a graduate research laboratory specializing in the design and development of high-resolution visualization and virtual-reality display systems, collaboration software for use on multi-gigabit networks, and advanced networking infrastructure. It is a joint effort of UIC’s College of Engineering and School of Art and Design, and represents the oldest formal collaboration between engineering and art in the country offering graduate MS, PhD and MFA degrees. EVL has received worldwide recognition for developing the original CAVE™ and ImmersaDesk® virtual reality systems; and, more recently, the 105-Megapixel LambdaVision tiled display and Varrier autostereoscopic display. EVL is a founding member of StarLight the Global Lambda Integrated Facility (GLIF) and the Global Lambda Visualization Facility (GLVF), and with Calit2 / UCSD is a leading institution working on the NSF-funded OptIPuter project.

About Louisiana State University Center for Computation & Technology www.cct.lsu.edu
The LSU Center for Computation & Technology, or CCT, is an interdisciplinary center, uniting faculty from departments across LSU who use the advanced cyberinfrastructure available through CCT to conduct research in a variety of fields, such as physics, computer science and digital art. CCT advances LSU’s Flagship Agenda and promotes economic development for the state by using computational applications to aid research and develop solutions that benefit academia and industry.

Email: laura@evl.uic.edu

Date: November 7, 2007 - January 7, 2008
Jason Leigh teaches the EVL Gaming Seminar - EVL

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