Archive for October 2, 2012

Lectures by Video

Posted in Education, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on October 2, 2012 by telescoper

I spent a short while this morning sitting in on a lecture from one of our fourth-year modules, on Quantum Field Theory. Nothing obviously remarkable about that, except that the lecture was in fact delivered by Prof. Graham Shore of Swansea University and I was sitting in the School of Physics & Astronomy at Cardiff University with a group of twenty or so Cardiff undergraduates.

This was the first lecture our students have received from Swansea as part of an arrangement to share some teaching. There was a plan to do it last year, but it fell apart owing to technical problems. When I took over as Director of Teaching and Learning earlier this year I was determined to make it work. I have long felt that many of our 4th-year students were losing out on some advanced topics, especially in particle physics, owing to the lack of expertise in that area here. Indeed, the lack of expertise in particle physics here in Cardiff is so extreme that our students have had to put up with being taught by me! Likewise Swansea’s undergraduates have missed out a bit on some topics we do here, especially astrophysics and gravitational physics. This division of labour dates back to the old federal University of Wales where it was decided for strategic reasons not to compete in these two areas of “big science” but to allow Cardiff to do astronomy, astrophysics and gravitational physics and Swansea the particle stuff. It was a sensible decision from a research point of view, but it meant that the two relatively small physics departments here in South Wales could offer their undergraduates more restricted choices of advanced topics  than at bigger universities.

Not for the first time, the web has furnished a solution. After a few technical problems – not entirely sorted out, to be honest – we’ve finally established a video link. The initial setup is temporary, but we will (hopefully by next week) have a permanent, high quality videoconferencing suite for future use. It will probably take some time for lecturers and students on both sides to get used to it, but sitting in this morning I found it more than satisfactory from the point of view of audibility and legibility. The only problem really is that the static camera shot makes it a bit claustrophobic. I’m not sure whether there’s a way around that without spending a fortune on multiple cameras.

Anyway, to mark this historic occasion I thought I post another video lecture on Quantum Field Theory just to give you a flavour of the content and the experience. This is by David Tong of Cambridge University as seen in a lecture recorded by the Perimeter Institute in Canada.


Anyway, in the spirit of openness, and because I couldn’t stay for the whole session,  I’d be interested to hear what any Cardiff students thought of the experience either in private or through the comments box..