Logo: University of Southern California

USC Viterbi Launches Alliance to Bring the World to Students

iPodia partnership creates a virtual classroom that allows students from around the globe to collaborate and learn together

July 09, 2012 —

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering today unveiled an international partnership that allows students from multiple countries across the globe to take the same class – at the same time.

iPodia students communicate with classmates across the globe.

The partnership, known as the iPodia Alliance, creates a “classroom-without-borders” that allows students from partnered institutions to take a common class interactively and learn collaboratively from one another in a real time immersive video environment.

"USC prepares students to succeed in our global society by developing cutting-edge pedagogical technology, interdisciplinary curriculum, and unique opportunities to engage with other students from around the world,” said Elizabeth Garrett, USC Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“The iPodia Alliance, led by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, reflects our commitment to training our undergraduates to flourish in an interconnected world by bringing them together with students overseas in a virtual classroom that encourages collaborative discussion and projects. The Alliance also allows USC to play a leading role in promoting mutual understanding between nations by, for example, bringing into the same classroom the top students from along the Pacific Rim, and involving universities from all continents,” Garrett said.

The Alliance's charter members include USC in Los Angeles; Peking University (PKU) in Beijing, China; the National Taiwan University (NTU) in Taipei, Taiwan; Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel; the Korea Advance Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejeon, South Korea; the RWTH Aachen University in Aachen, Germany; and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) - Bombay in Mumbai, India. Additional university partners are also currently under consideration.

Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, described the iPodia Alliance as "a new paradigm that leverages communication technologies to provide a truly global educational opportunity to its member universities.”

“The iPodia model demonstrates our belief that what students learn depends on with whom they learn, that context cannot be taught but is learned by students, and that cultural diversity can inspire global innovation,” said Professor Stephen Lu, iPodia founder and program director. “With iPodia, USC students are now able to learn from the brightest global classmates, enabling not only a transfer of knowledge but also a mutual understanding across continents.”

The Alliance announcement comes as students at USC, PKU and NTU have just completed the third year of Lu’s course "Principles and Practices of Global Innovation.” Consisting of 20 students from each university, the iPodia program model made it possible —for the first time— for Chinese and Taiwanese students to work directly with each other without crossing the Taiwan Strait. Throughout each semester of the course, iPodia students have enjoyed joint classroom instruction, shared coursework, connected through social media, and participated in live discussion through synchronous video conferencing. The most recent class culminated with USC and PKU students joining their classmates at the NTU campus in Taipei for three weeks at the end of the semester to complete and demonstrate their semester-long innovation projects.

Universities participating in the iPodia Alliance will collaborate on curriculum development and share course delivery across institutional and physical boundaries. iPodia courses focus on emerging socio-technical subjects of global importance that can benefit from the uniquely borderless learning setting provided.

Learning together in the iPodia classroom from different campuses, students can engage directly in interactive discussions, group exercises, and team projects to develop contextual understanding of the subject and, ultimately, a mutual understanding across different cultures.

iPodia: The Classroom of the Future from USC Viterbi on Vimeo.