Monash takes wireless path to e-Education

Monash University has launched its latest e-learning initiative, a pioneering software computer program that links students together via wi-fi technology with the aim of enhancing the learning experience for each of the University’s 58,000 students.

The new technology enables vastly-improved communication between students and lecturers during class time. The software—created at Monash and known as MeTL—provides students with an easy platform for communicating with each other and with the lecturer, no matter how big the teaching space may be.

Monash University has teamed up with US technology company Xirrus to deploy high performance, high bandwidth wi-fi into an initial 32 learning spaces across the University’s Clayton, Caulfield, Peninsula, and Gippsland campuses as part of the eEducation Centre’s move to bring collaborative education into large lecture theatres as well as smaller tutorial spaces.

MeTL takes advantage of the digital inking capabilities of the tablet PC, enabling simultaneous collaboration with PowerPoint slides, images and text. In addition to in-class collaboration, students can continue the learning conversation after the lecture finishes.

Director of Monash University’s eEducation Centre, Professor Gordon Sanson, said the new program, combined with rapid wi-fi capabilities, ensures students learn in a uniquely broad and deep way.

“Student engagement in small groups has been shown to increase learning. But when class sizes reach into the hundreds, then students are sometimes hesitant to offer a contribution that they think might be wrong or off-track. This program eliminates the isolation of individuals in large classes, and gives them an opportunity to provide instant feedback to the lecturer,” Professor Sanson said.

“We’re among a small elite group of Universities across the globe to be using this technology. We believe we’re the first University using this technology to collaborate between hundreds of students at any given time,” Professor Sanson said.

Monash University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) Professor Adam Shoemaker said that this technology—designed and created at Monash—was as useful as it was inspired.

“We know that social networking sites like Facebook have become so popular because they allow people to connect, engage and to exchange personal information quickly and in real-time. Another version of this collaborative approach has made Wikipedia a stand-out success. MeTL does for in-class notes what Facebook does for students’ social activities outside class. That is genuinely exciting,” Professor Shoemaker said.