Logo: University of Southern California

The More, The Merrier

Two Mexican universities explore joining USC Viterbi’s iPodia Alliance.
By: Natalia Velez
December 10, 2015 —

USC Viterbi students in Los Angeles listen to an iPodia presentation at the same time as their Mexican counterparts on the screen at  the right. (Courtesy Ang Liu)
Back in the spring of 2009, USC Viterbi launched the iPodia Alliance, a one-of-a-kind educational experience in which engineering students can virtually attend classes that take place in countries around the world. They include prestigious universities in India, China, Brazil, Taiwan, Israel, South Korea, Qatar Germany – and now Mexico.

This semester, the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and Monterrey Institute of Technological and Advanced Studies (Tec de Monterrey, Guadalajara campus) have explored joining the Alliance by hosting a joint pilot class.

The iPodia class with Mexico, “Neuromuscular Systems,” is taught by Francisco Valero-Cuevas, a USC Viterbi professor of biomedical engineering with a joint appointment in the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, part of the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC. During the course, students learn the fundamentals of neuromechanics and implement computational models of the mechanical function of limbs.

“We are thrilled to enlarge the iPodia alliance to include Mexican elite institutions such as UNAM and Tec de Monterrey,” USC Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos said. “Such collaboration will benefit our respective students and faculty and help us strengthen our global thought leadership.”

The class is taught using bi-directional audio and video. All students do the same homework and projects, and take the same tests. Mexican and US students collaborate via Skype, email and other Internet technologies.

The iPodia program runs on USC Viterbi’s DEN platform, which for the third year in a row was ranked No. 1 in the US News & World Report rankings for Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs.

“The fact that iPodia could be available in Mexico is a critical stepping towards building stronger academic and scientific bridges between our countries,” Valero-Cuevas said. “Mexico has engineering education on par with any other country, and these iPodia courses broaden the topics and perspectives available to them and to our USC students.”

The iPodia class emphasizes collaborative learning, and students complete a project in which they design, simulate and animate a neuromuscular limb. These peer-to-peer interactions support the program’s vision of making teamwork and discussion the centerpiece of an interactive learning experience.

“Collaboration among institutions is key to the progress of science and technology,” said professor Jesus Manuel Dorador, head of the Biomedical Engineering Department at UNAM. “Professor Valero-Cuevas’ iPodia class allows Mexican students to interact with some of the most brilliant minds of top international institutions.”

The iPodia program is based on the idea that cultural diversity can stimulate global innovation. Given that both UNAM and Tec de Monterrey rank among Mexico’s top universities, not only does their inclusion in the alliance add diversity to the mix, but it also adds quality, Valero-Cuevas said.

“The mere concept of iPodia opens doors and perspectives for many students in multiple countries—including the US,” he said. “We hope to catalyze and accelerate this trans-cultural engineering innovation for the benefit of the global society.”