How cool is this? Connecting students to researchers via video from the classroom

Inspiring our Canadian youth to get excited about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is critical to all of us. Our youth will be key to helping Canada succeed in a more fierce global competitive market. While we have amazing post-secondary universities and colleges I have noticed a trend over the years, even as my own children have grown up, that sciences, technology and engineering have become less attractive to many young people (see Figure6-2 here). If we are to reverse this trend and foster our next generation of innovators and technology workers we need to start working earlier to inspire our children.

With this concept in mind, last month at Cisco Connect Toronto, Cisco Canada announced a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Partners In Research and Sheridan College that will work to support teachers and help children across this country. Partners In Research is a non-profit organization that runs a program called Virtual Researcher On Call (VROC) that originated in Ontario, and is now expanding across Canada. The VROC program provides a full array of tools for teachers including podcasts, a video portal and a program called Experts on Demand that allows teachers to bring an expert into the classroom over two-way Telepresence or Video Conference technology. This allows a teacher to augment the subject they are teaching with a real-life expert.   

Imagine your child in class learning about astronomy from a Canadian astronaut, or talking to a biochemist or a technology expert about engineering and genetics. VROC makes it possible for our children to speak with experts over video throughout the school year.  Already over two dozen universities, hospitals and research organizations participate in the program, talking to students on a daily basis.  The team members at Partners In Research have been doing an amazing job, not only coordinating the content and speakers but supporting teachers with video technology.

Executives from Sheridan College, Partners in Research and I at Cisco Connect Toronto for the announcement.

Executives from Sheridan College, Partners in Research and I at Cisco Connect Toronto for the announcement.

Cisco and Sheridan are proud to join as strong supporters of Partners In Research and the VROC program as they work to expand services nationally, with the vision of being able to reach every classroom in Canada.  Last week at Cisco Connect Toronto we announced that we have contributed over a million dollars in product, direct funding and resources to the program. Sheridan has also made a significant commitment to provide shared video and data centre infrastructure, along with technical expertise, that will allow this program to grow.

Best of all, this initiative creates a platform that can be used to support other programs across Canada. For instance, together with Partners in Research and Cisco, the Alberta Distance Learning Centre is working to deliver similar offerings to classrooms across Alberta. And we will be extending into Canada’s far north this upcoming school year when we launch into an Iqaluit school with the help of satellite provider, SSI Micro, in an effort to excite students and encourage them to continue their education.

The VROC initiative is so large in scope that we collectively need many more partners and volunteers for it to reach its full potential. Organizations can get involved by contributing to the collective content, having employees volunteer as experts, or even by donating older video conferencing technologies. We look forward to not only working with Sheridan and Partners In Research, but also our customers and partners to recruit engineers and scientists in their companies who share our passion for these programs.

If you would like to get involved please check out and reach out to

About Jeff Seifert

As Chief Technology Officer for Cisco Canada, Jeff Seifert provides technical guidance and direction in key advanced and emerging technologies and go-to-market strategies. His work with many governments, enterprise and service provider customers in Canada and globally is influencing how Cisco brings products to market. During the past sixteen years at Cisco, Jeff has been involved in the successful introduction of many new technologies from the early days of the Internet, through the first deployments of VoIP and IP Telephony through to new transformational video solutions. Through this time he has worked to ensure that Canadian customer requirements are reflected in the products and architectures that Cisco brings to market. He shares a passion with organizations that wish to improve the lives of citizens whether it be serving rural Canadians, using technology to improve healthcare or enhancing education. Seifert was appointed a Distinguished Systems Engineer, Cisco's highest technical distinction, in August 2003. As an individual who represents the pinnacle of Cisco's technical and sales expertise, he is responsible for transforming customer demand into innovative solutions that companies can utilize in an effective and efficient manner. Prior to joining Cisco in 1995, he held financial, management, and technical positions at Bell Canada, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture), and IBM Canada. Seifert has achieved double CCIE certification, including Routing & Switching CCIE in 1996 and Voice CCIE in 2003. He holds a Bachelor in Applied Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto.
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2 Responses to How cool is this? Connecting students to researchers via video from the classroom

  1. its a great technology for student i think its most helpful for video research

  2. john070 says:

    good information students to researchers via video from the classroom

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