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International college news network in the works

More than 4,000 colleges will join GCN, officials say.

Students on thousands of campuses worldwide will use a Canadian university’s ultra-high-speed internet connection to share student-made video news segments in real time, avoiding the barriers and technical glitches of traditional satellite connections.

Technology officials at Ryerson University in Toronto are building the campus-to-campus online news sharing using the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION), an ultra-high-speed fiber optic network, and a video streaming program designed to deliver uninterrupted video communication.

In other words, Ryerson’s Global Campus Network (GCN) won’t have the video and audio delays that plague even cable news giants while in-studio anchors connect with reporters abroad. The high-speed web delay is less than half a second; satellite delays are often 1.5 seconds or longer, Grunberg said.

More than 4,000 colleges and universities are expected to contribute to GCN.

Richard Grunberg, creator of GCN and a radio and television arts professor at Ryerson – a university of about 35,000 students – said the streaming news collaboration between student broadcasters across the world will give campus-based content a home on the web.

“Students should have a voice,” said Grunberg, who has lectured at Ryerson for 20 years. “They work hard on the content they produce and it’s important for them to see productions from around the world, show their creations, and share in the production of collaborative projects.”

GCN will be supplied with video content from another attention-getting technology project, the Global City program, developed by Marion Coomey, another of Ryerson’s radio and television arts professors.

Students worldwide submit newsworthy video, audio, photos, and stories to the Global City website, which posts the material among other international content ranging from election coverage to popular vacation destinations.

GCN’s streaming technology is run by Haivision, a Canadian company that makes video equipment that allows for two-way streaming of high-definition video.

Danni Mulrennan, a lecturer at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, said access to GCN would give students there a chance to collaborate with college students producing video news segments in time zones a dozen hours earlier than theirs.

“We’re a long way away from the rest of the world, and for us to have an opportunity to participate in something that gives us that connection … is a fantastic chance,” Mulrennan said during a video interview. “It’s something we really want to focus on so students can deliver news and content beyond our … shores.”

Having a reliable high-speed web connection powering GCN will let educators focus on the ins and outs of video production rather than a steady stream of technical difficulties that keep student content from a wider audience.

“I think it’s going to be a lot slicker,” she said.

The ease of joining GCN – schools simply need an internet connection – could bring reams of news on the same subject from vastly different points of view, said Rob Heydari, a Ryerson radio and television arts student.

“This type of technology allows us to connect with people and find out what’s happening right now,” he said. “We can update our stories immediately and provide a global perspective we didn’t have before. … Everyone has internet connections now … and [GCN] has now taken away one of the huge barriers to these live connections.”

Heydari said an advanced internet connection without the latency of a standard satellite connection will bring a new level of immediacy to campus-based reporters and editors hoping to break news before their competitors.

“It changes time lines,” Heydari said. “You’re not waiting for tapes to arrive in the mail or a satellite uplink to be available at a certain time.”

Sharing news stories, pictures, and videos via Twitter, Facebook, and video chat websites has become a valuable tool for college reporters, said Coomey from Ryerson, but an international news network run by students will usher in more student-to-student collaboration.

For example, Coomey said students from various countries could report on the state of gay marriage legislation from their respective cities, interviewing local officials and activists and combining the coverage with interviews from several other campuses.

“This is beyond Skype and beyond Facebook,” she said. GCN will let students “find out how the same story looks differently depending on where you are in the world.”

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