Staff Newspaper of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
IC Reporter
 Issue 107, 26 June 2001
Minister praises research centre «
Shining lights scoop 25,000 prize «
Pisa stands proud «
e-MasterClass - the human touch «
Sinfonia 21 world premieres «
European Business Plan win «
Want to get ahead? «
Nicholas has Sachs appeal «
JIF award «
Something fishy... «
Inaugural lecture «
Goon, but not forgotten... «
March - June 2001 «
Regular Features
In Brief «
Media Spotlight «

e-MasterClass - the human touch
By Tanya Reed

IMPERIAL'S version of television's 'Midnight Hour' launched last week when a panel of guests gathered around an oval table on black chairs to witness interactive distance learning with a human touch.

The aim of E-MasterCass, founded by Professor Chris Toumazou, head of the department of bioengineering, is that a Master can lecture 'pupils' thousands of miles away, without the worry of interruptions from out-of date technology.

Chris Toumazou,  Sir Magdi Yacoub and Nagy Habib
From left, Chris Toumazou and ICSM's Sir Magdi Yacoub and Nagy Habib celebrate the launch of e-MasterClass
For the inaugural MasterClass on Tuesday, 19 June, rector, Sir Richard Sykes was the Master, with a lecture entitled 'Healthcare 2020: the promise of innovation' which looked forward to greater knowledge of the genetic and environmental factors in disease.

His 'pupils,' thousands of miles away, were the University of New South Wales, Australia and Mahanakorn University of Technology, Thailand. Representatives from each heard about Imperial's research into the development of cochlea implants, and the potential of implantable micro-electronic devices for use in precise, localised destruction of tumours.

Imperial's panel included chairman, Dr Chris Towler, director of strategy development; Sir Richard Sykes; Chris Toumazou; Sir Eric Ash, vice-president and treasurer of the Royal Society; Sir George Alberti, President of the Royal College of Physicians; Dick Kitney, department of bioengineering; David Limbeer, head of electrical and electronic engineering; Alex Wyke, director of Patientview and Professor Poosana Premanoch, visiting professor at IC.

The MasterClass took place in an informal suite in the video conference studio, South Kensington campus. Those who associate video conferencing with wires, television screens and deadlines needn't worry. Only one, unobtrusive camera records and tracks the speaker's movements. These are then displayed on plasma television screens in the recipient's office.

"The concept resulted from a brain-storming session with colleagues," Chris Toumazou explained. "We wanted a system which didn't interfere too much with the natural ' talk and chalk' aspects of teaching and was something along the lines of the music masterclass.

"With distance education, people can communicate with people without needing to rely on web-based notes for emphasis; interactive drawing boards allow charts and diagrams to be altered by either side during the class.

"Experts will be able to provide unique visions, strategies and future direction to an audience ranging from top bankers to university scientists .The scope is immense."

Television personality, Noel Edmonds' company, The Unique Group has provided the equipment which ensures less than a second time lapse in transmission.

"We expect a massive growth in distance learning in the next couple of years," he told the panel during a link-up to his Kensington offices. "We are very keen to build on our client base and very proud of the Imperial link which we see as having a long term future."

The e-MasterClass web site is at

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© Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, 2001
26 June 2001