On a recent morning, students at Rider University watched a 52-inch LCD television screen showing a college classroom in Cairo filling up with students dressed mostly in T-shirts and jeans, though several young women wore headscarves.
At the same time, the Egyptian students from the American University in Cairo could see and hear their American counterparts at Rider, kids wearing jeans and shirts with Greek fraternity letters.
Bringing together these students from two different continents and many backgrounds was a new high-tech videoconference technology gaining popularity at schools across New Jersey.
NJEDge.Net, a higher education nonprofit group, operates a fiber-optic network that connects more than 50 colleges and many public schools to Internet 2, an international super computer network that can blast data through cyberspace more than 100 times faster than commercial Internet.
“It brings the world into the classroom,” said George Laskaris, executive director of NJEDge.Net, a consortium of the state-funded New Jersey (University and College) Presidents’ Council. “We’re connected 24 hours a day.”
NJEDge.Net receives most of the roughly $5 million it needs each year to operate the network through dues and fees from 53 colleges.