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Global Campus Network Connects Universities with Broadcasting

A professor and broadcasting researcher at Ryerson University is developing a one-of-a-kind worldwide broadcast network with a twist. Using high-speed Internet connections and Canadian-made video streaming technology he has created the Global Campus Network (GCN), which will connect colleges and universities around the world, providing them with broadcast capabilities and functions that will be the envy of the world’s largest broadcast networks.

Richard Grunberg, a professor in Ryerson’s Radio and Television Arts (RTA), is the driving force behind the GCN. Dubbed the “CNN of the university world”, GCN is based at Ryerson University where Grunberg and a team of students are working to connect to 4,100 post-secondary institutions worldwide. GCN uses standard high speed Internet or can connect through the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), an ultra-high-speed fibre optic network that links Ontario research and education institutions to each other and to partners around the world. “Students should have a voice. They work hard on the content they produce and it’s important for them to see productions from around the world, show their creations, and share in the production of collaborative projects,” says Grunberg, who, in recognition of his innovative work on GCN, received the 2011 ORION Learning Award in April.

State-of-the-art “plug and play” equipment developed by the Montreal-based company Haivision and adapted for broadcast purposes by Ryerson through a unique partnership, enables students to produce live, high quality international newscasts with hosts in two or more countries at the same time.

Programming on GCN will include student produced current affairs shows, newscasts, entertainment programs, and research material. Ryerson students will not only contribute to the network as content producers, but also as on-air talent and major network administrators.

The Global City program, developed by Radio and Television Arts professor Marion Coomey, will be included in GCN’s programming. Through the Global City website, students from around the world can submit video, audio, photojournalism and written stories about international issues that affect their lives. The project’s goal is to connect students’ voices and perspectives to get a better understanding of everyone’s differences and similarities. Story contributions have already been received from universities in New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland and England.

“Collaborative technologies such as the one adopted by the Global Campus Network have the potential to break down cultural barriers and open up the broadcast environment” says Grunberg. “Recent citizen reporting on events in the Middle East is a prime example of this. In our case, we are giving the viewing public the opportunity to choose what content they watch from selected viewpoints around the globe and the chance to interact with or contribute to that coverage.”

Grunberg first conceived of GCN in early 2010 when he approached Haivision about adapting their technology for the purposes of creating a student-run news network. Grunberg quickly put the technology to the test during an interview between Ryerson and a broadcaster colleague at Sudbury’s Laurentian University, in conjunction with TFO, Ontario’s French language educational broadcaster (the interview is available on YouTube - www.youtube.com/watch?v=6SS5J_WiibQ).

More recently, Grunberg also conducted a successful international test of the technology between Ryerson and the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cG4OWLxW94). During that test, full 1080 HD content was transmitted both ways and operators were able to cue on-air talent via seamless intercom and earpiece communication. There was no perceptible delay in the transmission, nor any degradation or interruption of the sound or images.

“It really highlighted the capabilities of the technology,” says Grunberg, noting that other networks, such as NBC, CBC and TVO, have all expressed interest in this type of technology.

GCN relies on high-definition video streaming technology that is sent and received over high-speed Internet. The technology is highly reliable and offers a number of advantages over traditional satellite transmissions, for example:

  • Time delay is 0.5 seconds, even with great distances such as Toronto to Auckland, New Zealand. Satellite delay is typically 1.5 seconds or more.
  • Satellite connection is prohibitively expensive, particularly for student-run studios. The Haivision system is a fraction of the cost
  • Communication is bi-directional, allowing operators in different countries to both send and receive full HD video, intercom, IFB and audio all from the one Haivision box.
  • High-speed Internet connections provide transmedia producers and users unprecedented capabilities. For instance, editors thousands of kilometres apart can work collaboratively on the same content at the same time.

GCN will soon establish its first permanent university connection with the Auckland University of Technology. Grunberg is working to expand GCN to include “news bureaus” at universities around the world. These bureaus will generate and air student content, which will then be distributed by the network’s member schools, with Ryerson as the central hub.

To build the network, Grunberg and a few of his colleagues (professors Michael Murphy and Marion Coomey and Radio and Television Arts chair Charles Falzon) recently pitched GCN to prospective member schools during the Broadcast Education Association (BEA), and National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) conventions in Las Vegas and were well received.

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to 28,000 students, including 2,000 master's and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 130,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca


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