An Overview of a Hybrid System for Distance Teaching at UCL

Carol Parker, Liz Puchnarewicz


The Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) is a remote site of UCL (University College London) and is situated 40 miles from London in the Surrey hills. While there are no undergraduate students at MSSL, the academic staff still have teaching duties, which are usually undertaken at UCL's main Gower Street campus. This involves a round trip of approximately four hours (in some cases) for only one hour's worth of teaching; the travelling is therefore costly and inefficient. Remote teaching via a video link offered the potential of a very effective solution to this problem, so MSSL began trials from 1998 with UCL's Media Resources Department using videoconferencing equipment to link up to the main UCL site.

The aim of the trial was to gain experience with the format and to gauge student reaction with a view to using the technique more widely for teaching from MSSL and other remote sites.

The lecture course chosen for the experiment was High Energy Astrophysics, which is given to final year BSc, MSci and MSc students. There were several advantages in using this particular course. Final year students are much more confident in the University teaching environment and in their interactions with lecturers, so they are more relaxed in an unfamiliar studio setting. The course is very popular so the students have more enthusiasm and are more receptive. Finally, the course is quite descriptive with fairly basic physics and mathematics, so it lends itself very well to discussion.

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