North Carolina State University and IBM Help Bridge Digital Divide in North Carolina, and Beyond
North Carolina State University (NC State) and IBM (NYSE: IBM) announced today that the Virtual Computing Initiative (VCI) is making tools and resources available to students at all educational levels to build 21st century skills. Launched seven months ago, the VCI is delivering on its promise to promote the universal access of technology to deliver traditional education in a more powerful and impactful way across the State.
With this announcement, the VCI is meeting its goal set out in October, 2006, to create and build a community of users, researchers and educators who will adopt, utilize and support the Virtual Computing Lab (VCL) paradigm. The VCL is an open architecture developed by the NC State Information Technology Division, the College of Engineering, the Friday Institute and IBM Corporation. This open infrastructure has already helped over 30,000 students and faculty to easily use and share resources to support everyday educational and research requirements in a more productive and cost effective way.
This year alone, the VCL has been tapped to support a half dozen new computing solutions that range from K-12 learning programs, to advanced university-level teaching and research applications, to high-performance computing. The VCL is also supporting new pilot programs at several regional universities, community colleges and K-12 schools.
In addition to the large scale production NC State VCL, new pilots have either been established or will soon be online at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH), North Carolina Central University (NCCU), Duke University, UNC-Greensboro (UNC-G), East Carolina University (ECU), Western Carolina University and Appalachian State University (ASU). NC Agricultural & Technical University (NC A&T), Wake Forest University and Elizabeth City State University are also interested in establishing pilots. The NC State VCL is also supporting Engineering Online and 2+2 programs at Lenoir Community College, Craven County Community College, UNC-Wilmington and UNC-Asheville.
By delivering solutions on demand through the Internet, the VCL has substantially increased the availability of needed educational computing services and applications to North Carolina students and educators in even the most economically disadvantaged and/or remote parts of the state. Using the power of virtualization, the VCL provides equal access to critical curriculum and technology resources.
Making the Grade
At the K-12 level, the emergence of virtual computing has already made a profound impact on North Carolina school districts, teachers and students.
VCI has partnered with North Carolina school districts in Granville, Franklin, Halifax and Northampton counties to help shape a K-12 VCL solution that will provide equity in access and service for rural and underserved schools. The pilot program in these schools has provided valuable information about the needs of teachers and students in middle school math and science classrooms, laying the groundwork for development of solutions that will provide powerful computing tools not seen before in these school districts. These tools will be directed at closing the achievement gap and ensuring students from these schools remain globally competitive.
Building Open Skill Sets
The VCL is currently supporting several open source community projects at prominent North Carolina universities. In addition to the founding partners, NC State and IBM, participants of the VCI in North Carolina have grown to include NCCU, UNC-CH, UNCG, ECU, ASU, NC A&T, and Duke. IBM is currently considering VCL-related research grant proposals from faculty at most of these universities. These proposed research projects will address a number of technical issues related to the VCL infrastructure itself (including performance, availability, security, governance, provisioning, etc.), as well as explore a number of applications that are ideally suited for the VCL.
Students are building valuable technology skills on a broad range of hardware, operating systems and applications through this initiative. For example, students access the resources of the VCL to run demanding application software supporting their courses, lab work and research projects. The platform independence of the VCL allows for the support of a broad mix of heterogeneous applications. In addition, the 24/7 availability of the VCL allows students to access computing resources throughout the night, often when learning labs are closed. Distance education students also value, and benefit from, the anywhere, anytime availability of the VCL.
The VCL is being supported by IBM BladeCenter servers, many of which were donated by IBM to stimulate both traditional educational needs and high performance computing environments. IBM has also awarded several faculty grants for research related to the VCL.
Acting Locally, Expanding Globally
Based on the successful adoption of the VCL in North Carolina, IBM and NC State are assisting other universities in establishing VCL centers in their own computing environments. The VCI is part of the family of IBM Centers for Advanced Studies (CAS), of which there are 20 centers around the world, in collaboration with the leadership of NC State.
Within the United States, new VCL pilots are being considered by the University of Maryland Baltimore County, Morgan State University, the University of Texas-Austin, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University. In Canada, VCL pilots are running at the University of Toronto, the University of Waterloo, Queens University and Carleton University through the activities of IBM CAS Toronto and Ottawa.
VCL pilots are also being considered by universities in India through IBM CAS Bangalore. By growing this program, IBM is providing increased opportunities for global collaboration. For example, students can not only tap into computing power from their laptops or computers from anywhere on campus -- now they will be able to work on projects and lab work together across the globe.
“IBM is committed to building the skills of existing and future students of the North Carolina region and beyond,” said Sue Horn, Vice President and Site Executive for IBM Software Group in RTP. “As a sign of that commitment, IBM has provided more than $2M in grants for hardware and research, as well as access to free IBM software, to support the VCI. IBM will continue to invest in this area and continue to make education a priority to promote the development of 21st century skills.”
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