When COVID Shut Down Universities, USC Viterbi Was Prepared. The Motive? A 50-Yr-Outdated Innovation – USC Viterbi

[email protected] affords 41 majors and 5 certificates. (Photograph/Keith Wang)

It was March of 2020, and Binh Tran had an issue.

With COVID-19 sweeping the globe and companies and universities shuttered, Tran had one week. One week for him and his crew of 25 to maneuver 6,000 graduate college students and college of the USC Viterbi Faculty of Engineering seamlessly and efficiently on-line.

Beforehand, Tran, the manager director of [email protected], USC Viterbi’s acclaimed distance training community, had managed on-line assist for 900 grasp’s engineering college students.

Logging 80-hour weeks, Tran actually went the additional mile. “My crew and I made a number of home calls, delivering tools to college at their houses and answering their questions and serving to a few of them with distant instructing,” stated Tran, an info expertise professional who has served as DEN’s chief since 2006. His crew upgraded the platform’s expertise; positioned massive orders for distant studying tools, resembling tablets, doc cameras, lights, and HD webcams; and started providing DEN coaching classes earlier than the peak of the pandemic. They even answered late night time telephone calls about DEN and non-DEN platforms, together with Zoom and numerous LMS techniques.

In the long run, they succeeded. However their success was not weeks, and even months, within the making.

It was, maybe, almost 50 years within the making.

Few college distance studying platforms, Tran stated, had been as ready to accommodate the altering necessities for distant studying as DEN, which this yr celebrates its golden anniversary. Described by USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos as “expertise enhanced entry to the classroom,” DEN has set the requirements for distance and hybrid training excellence since 1972.

“Our place proper now could be the place a number of colleges need to be,” Tran stated.

The [email protected] distinction

Many universities have distant studying packages, however none with the across-the-board high quality of [email protected], stated Kelly Goulis, senior affiliate dean for admissions & college students engagement and DEN government director from 2001 to 2006.

Name it the DEN distinction.

“What different establishments have completed is that they’ve separated out with on-line and stated, ‘We’ve got a brand new [remote] program for you and a unique college,”’ she stated.  “In contrast, we’ve all the time held to the premise that you just’re simply receiving the identical training, whether or not within the classroom, remotely or in a hybrid vogue.”

What which means is that almost all of DEN college are tenured or tenure-track. Whereas the admission requirements for DEN graduate college students are equivalent to these of on-campus college students, Tran stated.

DEN’s proprietary, in-house technological infrastructure is way extra versatile, progressive and adaptable than different universities’ outsourced distance-education platforms, he added. Maybe that’s why Microsoft just lately partnered with DEN to enhance its Microsoft Groups enterprise communication platform. DEN plans to raised combine the collaboration utility into its expertise as a part of its partnership with Microsoft.

By DEN, USC Viterbi affords 41 grasp’s levels and 5 graduate certificates, in areas starting from electrical to civil engineering, from astronautical engineering to pc science. About 150, or 80%, of all USC Viterbi grasp’s courses are DEN programs, Tran stated, offering invaluable tutorial companies to the scholars on campus as nicely.

For 10 consecutive years, US. Information & World Report has ranked DEN within the high 5 within the nation for each for on-line engineering and pc science.

“What makes DEN distinctive is that it connects our on-line college students to what’s being taught and skilled by our on-campus college students,” stated Candace Home Teixeira, USC Viterbi’s affiliate dean of company engagement and packages. “DEN and on-campus college students are ‘in’ the identical class, interacting on tasks and dealing collectively to resolve advanced engineering issues. Our on-line college students’ connection to the USC Viterbi campus expertise – lecturers, college, and sources – makes DEN distinctive.”

A technological edge

In an Olin Corridor classroom on a steamy August morning, Ellis Horowitz teaches Pc Science 572: Info Retrieval and Internet Search Engines, a DEN class with 288 college students. As the pc science professor strikes across the classroom, a digital camera tracks his motion. When Horowitz discusses the standard of a specific net browser’s search capabilities, a mathematical equation that measures so-called “precision” seems on a PowerPoint projected on a display screen behind him. College students within the classroom and as far-off as India, China and Iceland watch him in actual time. They’ll even ship their professor questions throughout his lecture.

“The flexibility to entry our DEN programs is accessible to anybody with web entry,” stated Horowitz, who headed DEN from 1999 to 2001. “The concept of individuals taking my course from everywhere in the world is fantastic.”

DEN’s expertise can do greater than merely broadcast lectures dwell around the globe and permit college students to message their professors.

With DEN as a platform, USC Viterbi established in 2010 the iPodia Alliance, a world consortium of 17 main universities. A paradigm for 21st-century larger training, this “classroom-without borders” engenders tutorial cooperation and collaboration between college students from China, India, Greece, Uganda, Mexico, Australia, Taiwan and USC Viterbi, amongst others.

DurIn March 2020, DEN@Viterbi moved 6,000 graduate students and faculty successfully online in only about a week (Photo/Keith Wang)

In March 2020, [email protected] moved 6,000 graduate college students and college efficiently on-line in solely a couple of week. (Photograph/Keith Wang)

In a number of non-iPodia DEN programs, on-line and on-campus college students work collectively to resolve issues, give joint shows and infrequently take part in examine teams, Tran stated. The net college students, comprised principally of working professionals, deliver real-world expertise to the classroom, whereas their on-campus counterparts are inclined to have a extra tutorial and theoretical outlook. These complementary approaches, Tran added, profit everybody.

Lastly, DEN’s technological capabilities have confirmed particularly helpful to on-campus worldwide college students. Not solely can they watch captioned, recorded lectures at any time when they need, however, in some circumstances, they’ll even have them transcribed.

“We’re not a purely on-line program the place sources and instruments can be found to simply that group,” Tran stated.” We offer all this infrastructure, all this expertise, all these instruments to each on campus and on-line college students.”

Making the unimaginable doable

DEN has made it doable for various college students, whether or not army personnel posted in faraway lands or a quadriplegic doctoral pupil dwelling on the East Coast, to obtain a world-class on-line engineering training.

Take U.S. Military Captain Matt Smith, who earned his grasp’s diploma in electrical engineering in 2010. Stationed first in Kuwait and later in Afghanistan, Smith accomplished all his DEN programs whereas on lively responsibility. Attending his graduation ceremony at USC “was the primary time I ever stepped on campus,” he stated.

Equally, Samuel Aspiranti stated he appreciated DEN’s flexibility, which allowed him to observe recorded lectures asynchronously as wanted. Regardless of having to regularly transfer due to his army commitments, Aspiranti efficiently earned his M.S. in cybersecurity engineering in 2018.

“I believed I’d by no means be capable of [finish] a program at USC, however DEN far exceeded my expectations,” he stated.

With out DEN’s technological attain, Ryan Williams won’t be the place he’s immediately.

In 2008, Williams skilled a freak browsing accident that left him a quadriplegic with no use of his legs and restricted use of his arms. Due to his accidents, the then-USC Viterbi Ph.D. pupil returned residence to his native Roanoke, Virginia, so his household might higher take care of him.

Resisting the temptation to withdraw into himself, Williams redoubled his tutorial efforts. DEN allowed him to maneuver ahead and end his grasp’s coursework remotely.

Williams communicated with professors through Skype or e mail, painstakingly typing 25 to 30 phrases a minute by placing his proper hand in a brace with a pencil on the finish. He labored late into the night time studying articles and writing analysis papers about how multi-agent techniques work together intelligently and autonomously.

In Could 2014, a beaming Williams acquired a rousing ovation on the Ph.D. graduation ceremony when he collected his diploma. Two years later, Williams beat out 50 candidates and landed an assistant professorship within the Bradley Division of Electrical and Pc Engineering at Virginia Tech College.

“With out DEN, persevering with at USC Viterbi would have been troublesome if not unimaginable,” stated Williams, whose analysis focuses on how robots collaborate to resolve duties. “DEN places you within the classroom and offers you direct interplay with the professor and even entry to [class] notes. It will get a number of issues proper.”

At Virginia Tech, Williams has taught 750 college students, written 40 tutorial papers, gained the NSF Profession Award and landed $5 million in analysis grants from the Nationwide Science Basis. He’s now up for tenure.

To start with

In 1984, Dean Yortsos, on the time affiliate professor of chemical and petroleum engineering, stood earlier than his class to show “Movement and Transport in Porous Media,” which handled how fluids and matter transfer by way of porous media, together with soils and fractured rocks. As he spoke, college students arrayed in entrance of him listened intently, furiously taking notes.

Yannis C. Yortsos teaching a DEN course in 1984 (Photo/Courtesy of Yannis C. Yortsos)

Yannis C. Yortsos instructing a DEN course in 1984 (Photograph/Courtesy of Yannis C. Yortsos)

A typical engineering course? Hardly.

A digital camera on the entrance of the classroom captured Yortsos’ each utterance. After some post-production, a videotape of his lecture was despatched to Bakersfield, the place about 20 DEN college students, all staff at space oil firms, watched the tape. To provide these working professionals the type of particular person consideration lengthy the hallmark of a USC Viterbi training, Yortsos held workplace hours – in individual.

“I’d drive to Bakersfield, 90 minutes every approach, to elucidate the fabric, as wanted, to our DEN college students,” he stated. “It wasn’t your typical on-line Zoom factor.”

Though DEN’s expertise, tutorial choices, and viewers have modified dramatically over the previous half century, it has repeatedly remained on the forefront of engineering distance studying. From the start, Yortsos stated, DEN’s management dedicated to offering the very best distant training, all the time placing college students’ wants first.

It began in 1972, the yr of “The Godfather,” the launch of the House Shuttle program, and the discharge of first scientific hand-held calculator, the HP-35, which offered for slightly below $400. That yr, USC Viterbi supplied its first distance-learning programs through the Norman Topping Tutorial Tv Community, or ITV. Its architect was Jack Munushian, who got here to USC in 1968 from Hughes Plane and was a detailed colleague of Zohrab Kaprielian, then-dean of USC Engineering.

“Jack Munushian noticed the longer term, and the longer term was on-line studying, distance studying, particularly for grasp’s courses,” Yortsos stated. “To an extent few individuals understand, we on the Viterbi Faculty dwell in a home that Jack constructed.”

By DEN, USC turned one of many first universities to award skilled grasp’s levels in engineering. Technologically, although, the platform initially had limitations. For the primary 25 years, DEN supplied courses principally to aerospace professionals through microwave supply that would solely broadcast inside a 20-mile radius. Past that, DEN college students needed to watch videotaped lectures despatched by mail or by couriers.

In 1997, DEN started delivering courses by satellite tv for pc to Qualcomm in San Diego and subsequently to company websites all through California and Arizona. Though a step ahead, DEN college students nonetheless wanted satellite tv for pc receivers and different particular tools to observe lectures and in any other case take part in school.

Underneath former engineering Dean Leonard Silverman’s management and with $1 million in assist from the Lord Basis, Professor Horowitz initiated the transition from satellite tv for pc supply to supply throughout the web, referred to as webcasting. He additionally renamed the power The Distance Training Community, or DEN. His successor Kelly Goulis, in collaboration with USC’s Info Sciences Institute (ISI), accelerated DEN’s transfer on-line.

ISI, Goulis stated, offered “the technical roadmap” for the transition, which was accomplished in 2002. “We launched a fairly novel dwell supply system on-line that didn’t exist earlier than and took it fully on-line in a short time,” stated Goulis, who, as DEN’s government director tripled its pupil inhabitants. “We expanded our attain tremendously, together with to a number of different market and business sectors resembling vitality firms, for instance Kuwait Oil and Saudi Aramco and nationwide oil firms in Brazil.”

The DEN of tomorrow

Tran, who has run DEN since taking on from Goulis in 2006, has constructed on the academic platform’s robust basis.

At this time, all of USC Viterbi’s eight departments, from biomedical engineering to pc science to electrical engineering, provide DEN grasp’s levels. The variety of majors has trebled to greater than 40 immediately, Tran stated. DEN just lately added a grasp’s in well being techniques administration and plans to introduce interdisciplinary M.S. packages in information science with partnerships in communications developed with the USC Annenberg Faculty for Communication and Journalism, and in spatial information science, in collaboration with USC Dornsife Spatial Sciences Institute, amongst others.

Within the subsequent 5 years, Tran stated he needs to introduce synthetic intelligence (AI) and augmented actuality (AR) into DEN. He envisions digital tutors and different enhanced studying instruments. “Our deep connection to analysis and analysis facilities units us aside from different on-line or hybrid packages on this house,” he stated.

“The pandemic reminded us that we should proceed to raise our infrastructure, services, and tutorial companies to college and college students,” Tran added. “And we’ll.”




Printed on September 14th, 2022

Final up to date on September 14th, 2022

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