sealPurdue News

May 2000

Purdue brings students from around the globe
into live classroom

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Distance learning takes on a whole new meaning when a Purdue University educator brings students from across the United States, Australia and Canada into his classroom via the Internet.

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Richard Lesh's mathematics and science education graduate course, conducted at Purdue's West Lafayette campus, creates a virtual classroom where students participate in live classroom discussions, produce multimedia projects and co-write documents through a collaborative distance learning venture.

Students from Purdue and eight other universities are taking the course at Purdue and receiving credit for the class from their own universities. Other participating institutions are State University of New York at Buffalo; Arizona State University at Tempe; Rutgers University at New Brunswick, N.J.; Queensland University of Technology in Australia; the University of Quebec at Montreal; Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis; and Purdue University Calumet at Hammond, Ind.

"This is very, very unique. In fact, I don't know of anywhere else that this is being done at this level," says Lesh, who is the Robert B. Kane Distinguished Professor of Education and associate dean for research and development at Purdue's School of Education. "Most distance education is just transmitting lectures, papers and tests back and forth between the university and the student, but we wanted to be interactive. With this, each student has a computer linked simultaneously with other students in the class, and they interact with each other as if they were all together in a traditional classroom."

Lesh says the Web-based teleconference classroom was devised for a number of reasons.

"We wanted Purdue students to be able to meet and work with students from other universities without it costing them a lot of money," Lesh says. "This also allows us to offer a class that we normally would not be able to because there were not enough students enrolled. Where we would have had five or six students from one place before, we now have 40 from nine different places enrolled in the same class at the same time."

One of the challenges with the class is scheduling a time that works for people in all the various time zones that are involved. The class is set for 6 p.m. Central Standard Time, but that means students in Australia attend the class at 7 a.m.

"This requires a lot of coordination, but it has been worth it," Lesh says. "It has really gotten a lot of attention as well. Quite often one or two faculty members from the other locations attend the live classroom, because they are interested in learning more about it."

Students from other areas download chapters, school work and tests from the course's Web site at and transmit their work to the participating universities for evaluation by their peers. The live interactive sessions give students the opportunity to co-write documents with each other during class time.

"A student from the University of Quebec may write something on one part of the computer screen, and then a student from Purdue can add their input to the document," Lesh says. "By the time we're through, a dozen students have collaborated on a single paper or a drawing or a spreadsheet."

Lesh says technology has played a major role in the creation of the class. Janel Crider, a Purdue graduate student in communications, coordinates the technology for the course.

"I see this as a great research tool for students, because it creates a line of communication between students from around the globe and enables them to share ideas and research," Crider says.

Lesh predicts that this type of distance classroom will grow in the coming years.

"I expect in a few years students from all over the world and different universities will work together on the same project," he says. "I really see this as a way to bring distance learning into a live classroom."

Sources: Richard A. Lesh, (765) 494-3673,

Janel Crider, (765) 496-2767,

Writer: Cynthia Sequin, (765) 494-2073,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Purdue education professor Richard A. Lesh, right, combines traditional classroom teaching and distance learning with graduate students from across the United States, Canada and Australia. (Purdue News Service Photo by David Umberger)

A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: Lesh.distance

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