Ethiopia, 8 July 2009: FVC, Polycom’s Value Added Distributor for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) with dedicated offices in United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco, has announced that Jimma University (JU), Ethiopia’s first community-oriented institution of higher learning, has selected Polycom’s video conferencing solutions to expand, regularise its higher learning classes and distance learning projects.

Melkamu Dumessa, the University’s Head of External Relations, said, “We were looking for a system that offered flexibility in terms of audio-visual integration, powerful functionality, future-proof technology and all the functions a video conference system should have. Polycom outweighed all the other brands and provided a comprehensive VC network.”

Jimma University (JU) is a public institution of higher education established by the amalgamation of Jimma College of Agriculture and Jimma Institute of Health Sciences, hosting over 20,000 students. The continuing growth in student intake demanded an expansion of teaching staff. However, like many developing countries, Ethiopia faces a critical scarcity of teaching staff and skilled resources. This lack of skilled resource resulted in the university facing issues of delayed semesters and exams, late academic year, higher cost of teaching and related administration issues. JU sought to realize a more cost-effective solution. The University implemented Polycom’s comprehensive visual communication network that would allow them to communicate with other universities/governmental departments and conduct video lectures.

“The system’s installation and integrating [it] with the university network initially created some complications,” said Girum Ketema, Director of ICT Development Office at Jimma University. “However, the problems were overcome with the assistance of FVC and its local authorised Polycom partner, Africa Connect. The university’s staff were trained in the operation and maintenance of the system.”

JU deployed Polycom’s HDX9004 executive collection in five classrooms in its first phase. The University also deployed Polycom’s RMX2000 Real-time media conference platform to allow for multipoint conferencing with other campuses and connect more than 10-12 classrooms at the same time, expanding the universities capabilities for distance learning. In addition, JU invested in Polycom RSS™ 2000 Centralized server to record and stream to students across the network and the Video Media Center™ (VMC™) 1000 to edit classroom material, syllabus etc with plans to develop an E-library for future reference.

With this installation, JU can now be linked to 9 other universities throughout Ethiopia through a special VPN network called Ethiopian Education and Research Network (or EthERNet), used for video conferencing.

Ketema continued, “The Polycom video conferencing systems are already connected to the university’s VPN network. We are currently considering interlinking our networks within the WOREDA1 system, in order to expand our reach for distance-education students. I believe, among the major advantages of setting up the system, JU today not only saves time and money, but is also able to regularise schedules, syllabuses, and classes.”

Ketema continued, “The new system is absolutely fantastic and provides incredible video and voice quality for our users. Aside from allowing external professionals provide lectures via visual communication, the system has also brought unexpected benefits for the university, enabling us to expand our distance education program and offer short term trainings to the general public.”
There are also future designs for the network. The University plans to deploy the system in five more classrooms this year (2009) and expand its syllabus to take advantage of the new systems’ capabilities. Ketema elaborates that the university plans “to expand the VC system to cover the entire university including new buildings”, although the time at which it becomes a reality is of course dependent on the university’s facilitation priorities.

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