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Cisco Launches Connected North To Enhance Education and Healthcare Services in Remote Northern Communities

High-definition two-way video communications broaden classroom experiences and health services delivery


IQALUIT, NUNAVUT/TORONTO, ONTARIO –– The Government of Nunavut today joined Cisco Canada for the official launch of Connected North. The Connected North program delivers immersive and interactive education and healthcare services to remote and northern Aboriginal and Inuit communities through high-definition two-way video communication and collaboration technology. The program represents a $1.6 million investment by Cisco in Canada’s North.

A successful pilot phase in education was initiated in September 2013. Utilizing prioritized satellite bandwidth donated by SSi Micro, grade 6, 7 and 8 classrooms in Iqaluit’s Aqsarniit Ilinniarvik have been connected in real-time with teachers, experts and other students throughout Canada, for a more engaging, diverse and dynamic classroom experience. Following today’s announcement, two additional schools – the Deh Gah School in Fort Providence, Northwest Territories, and John Arnalukjuak High School in Arviat, Nunavut –will be joining the program in September 2014.

Connected North was designed to showcase innovations in the field of learning with the aim of encouraging students to attend class regularly. The virtual education program utilizes Cisco TelePresence® and Partners In Research’s (PIR) successful VROC (Virtual Researcher on Call) platform. Students in Iqaluit are benefitting from directly engaging with subject matter experts brought into the classroom through two-way video, for interactive sessions lasting up to 40 minutes. Students also connect with peers of the same age throughout Canada as part of the program’s Classroom Connect component, to share rich educational and cultural experiences. In a study conducted by York University, on the impact of the program, preliminary research results show that both teachers and students view the program positively. A majority (89%) of students reported that the remote learning experience made science more enjoyable and 81% said they felt they learned more in the virtual sessions than they did through traditional classroom learning. The focus of the program is to provide a fresh approach to learning, allowing teachers and administrators to expose their students to new people, experiences and ideas.

Connected North is also focused on bringing psychiatric and youth mental health services to Northern Aboriginal and Inuit communities via Cisco TelePresence® high-definition video links. To that end, RBC Foundation and Cisco have joined with the Tele-Link Mental Health Program developed by Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), to launch Tele-Link in select Nunavut health centres in September 2014.

Tele-Link was developed by SickKids in 2009 to provide mental health services to children, youth and their families in difficult to access rural areas, using videoconferencing and other technologies to give timely, equitable access to specialist services. The program has met with positive results in Ontario since its launch and now, with funding provided by RBC and technology donated by Cisco, it is hoped that success will be matched in Nunavut.

Facts and Highlights:

• Content provided through Connected North education programming will focus in the following key areas:

  • o Bio-science and Nature: bringing real time lab experiments and conversations with leading experts to students;
  • o Teacher mentoring and professional development; and
  • o Classroom Connect: bringing together students from Iqaluit with their peers across Canada through dedicated joint programming.

• Connected North was established in 2011 by Cisco Canada to leverage the company’s core competence in Internet, networking and collaboration solutions to bring education and healthcare services to remote communities across Canada’s North.

• Connected North is composed of a strategic partner ecosystem that includes:

  • o Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami;
  • o The Department of Education of the Government of Nunavut;
  • o The Department of Health of the Government of Nunavut;
  • o Cisco Canada;
  • o SSi Micro;
  • o Partners In Research;
  • o The Toronto Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids);
  • o The Royal Bank Foundation;
  • o York University;
  • o Sheridan College; and
  • o Canadian North

• Connected North is made possible by the delivery of video conferencing sessions over SSi’s Qiniq network using Meet Online Enterprise, an audio-video solution optimized for satellite networks by SSi with support from Infrastructure Canada and the Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation.

• Run by Partners In Research, the VROC program seeks to inspire students by bringing experts directly to the classroom through two-way video. The VROC program offers five to ten-minute spontaneous videoconferencing sessions, hour-long interactive presentations and semester-long mentorship style sessions.

• Cisco Canada press releases are always issued in English and French. For this announcement, the release will also be translated into Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun.

Supporting Quotes

Monica Ell, Minister of Health, Nunavut:

“The partnership with the Hospital for Sick Children gives us greater access to patient psychiatric care for children and youth to assist in their healing. Working with the Hospital for Sick Children will also help us deliver clinical training to our health care professionals. ”

Paul Quassa, Minister of Education, Nunavut:

“Rich and diverse educational programs are important investments to building a solid educational foundation for our current and future students. The Connected North program in Iqaluit is the first pilot project and we are encouraged by the initial results. The physical geography of our communities is always a challenge and Connected North allows us to literally connect our classrooms with expertise in other jurisdictions. This means, for example, we can have two-way interaction between a scientist and students in real time.

Mary Simon, Chairperson, National Committee on Inuit Education:

”This project will help young Inuit connect with larger communities in the Southern Canada, and perhaps more importantly, it will help them connect with each other. It puts Inuit in the driver’s seat and helps us explore our surroundings in new and evolving ways. Such innovative partnerships are essential if we are to transform Inuit education systems and prepare Inuit students to succeed in a 21st century economy.“

Nitin Kawale, President, Cisco Canada:

”Cisco Canada strongly believes there is significant potential for transformational change and positive impact in the areas of health care and education in Canada’s remote Aboriginal communities. By leveraging our technology expertise and uniting key private and public sector partners, we are aiming to make Connected North a vital and productive component of northern communities that will bring new levels of opportunities to inhabitants. And what you see here today is only the beginning. The program’s results in Iqaluit will be studied and used to develop longer term strategies for sustainability throughout Canada.“

Jeff Philipp, SSi Group Founder and CEO:

”Connected North has immense potential to become a critical service, dedicated to bringing unique and state-of-the-art solutions for education and health care to the North and beyond. We are proud to partner with Cisco and we look forward to expanding on this exciting new service in the coming years.“

David Willis, Clinical Manager, TeleLink Mental Health Program, SickKids:

”We believe this partnership will help build local capacity, supporting local health systems to respond, care and plan for the mental health needs of their communities. Our goal is to help improve the mental health and well-being of children and youth living in Northern Canada by providing them with barrier-free access to child and adolescent psychiatry, regardless of their location.“

Shari Austin, Vice President, RBC Corporate Citizenship and executive director, RBC Foundation:

”Timely access to mental health specialists and treatment is critical. Most mental disorders begin in childhood or adolescence - when the signs of mental illness are recognized and treated early, those affected can go on to lead healthy, productive lives. Today, access to mental health services in the Canadian North is largely unavailable. Through our $200,000 donation to Sick Kids and by partnering with Cisco, we will help deliver access to health experts in a region where these services might not be available otherwise. This support is part of our RBC Believe in Kids Pledge, a five-year, $100 million commitment to improving the well-being of at least one million children and youth in Canada"

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