The Institute for System Level Integration in Scotland is claiming a world first for online engineering tuition as its masters and doctoral students met their tutors for the first time after completing a course using facilities 300km away.
The course in advanced electronic design automation was developed for internet delivery by Bolton Institute. While tuition via the web is becoming commonplace, the remote access to industry-standard software essential to the course has become possible only in the past year.
The module is delivered jointly by Bolton and the University of Northumbria at Newcastle. The Cadence design software, which is an integral part of the course, is installed on multi-processor servers at Bolton, which has been working with UNN for several years on remote access to the software. The breakthrough came when Citrix Systems launched a version of its Metaframe software to run on the Sun Solaris operating system, which Bolton uses.
Tutors at Bolton and UNN were available for consultation and advice by telephone and email. They returned assignments by secure email to each student.
Bolton is exploring developing the Metaframe software further, including bringing together tutors and students on design exercises so that geographically isolated students gain experience of working in design teams, as they would in industry.