4-VA Collaborative Opens New Opportunities

From: Public Affairs


Looking for courses available from JMU in the 4-VA program? Visit the 4-VA website.

Getting a governor, a Fortune 100 CEO and the presidents of four major universities together is no easy task. Normally, such a meeting would require hours of travel, possibly an overnight stay and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars worth of travel expenses.

Thanks to technology provided by the 4-VA consortium, James Madison University President Linwood H. Rose participated in just such a meeting without ever leaving JMU's picturesque Shenandoah Valley campus. On Thursday, November 3, 2011, Rose and Governor Bob McDonnell, Cisco CEO John Chambers and the presidents of George Mason University, Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia met via Cisco's TelePresence technology to unveil the plans for the 4-VA collaborative.

"This is a big day for all Virginians because 4-VA will dramatically improve access to all of higher education," said McDonnell. "The use of technologies such as this TelePresence to help leverage resources will become more and more important to the delivery of higher education. It will also help hold down costs for tuition-paying students and their families."

The consortium was organized in 2010 in an effort to meet the needs of the Commonwealth identified by the Governor's Higher Education Commission and his Jobs Commission.

The cornerstone of the 4-VA collaboration is the TelePresence technology. TelePresence is an immersive video system that enables people in different locations to actually feel as if they are meeting in the same room. Features such as ultra-high definition video, spatial audio and standardized site design give the user an interactive experience unlike any other videoconferencing service.

"This is transformative technology," Rose said. "This is the stuff of James Bond and Jason Bourne we saw in the movies of years ago. And now it is available to all of us."

The new technology will foster collaboration and aid in the delivery of academic programs and research. For example, students at JMU and Virginia Tech will be able to take advanced Chinese classes offered at George Mason's Fairfax campus next semester. Virginia Tech President Charles Steger hopes to use the technology to expand the reach of Tech's Math Emporium. UVA President Teresa Sullivan said their TelePresence technology is already rather popular among prospective employers conducting interviews with UVA students.

4-VA's priorities over the next year include the design of a distance education degree completion program, establishment of a team of mathematics faculty who will begin to design a mathematics learning infrastructure, improving student success in science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses that typically have a high drop rate and enable sharing of courses across universities.

University of Virginia President Sullivan is excited for what the future holds. "I think that the most exciting parts are the things that we can't imagine yet," Sullivan said. "It will be the ways that collaborators get together here and think of new ways to use this technology beyond anything we've so far dreamed of."

Published Nov. 8, 2011