Distance Learning Comes to Campus
By Mika Ono
Second-year graduate student Wendelien Oswald of The Scripps
Research Institute's Kellogg School of Science and Technology
was the first to arrive for the "Essentials of Glycobiology"
class on Tuesday, March 30. Four of her fellow students soon
joined her, taking their places around a table in a conference
room in the Scripps Research administrative building. At 1
PM sharp, the professor started speakingin a classroom
about a mile away.
A case of mistaken location? No, the students were exactly
where they wanted to beattending the first distance
learning class to be taken as an elective in the Kellogg School
For her part, Wendelien (who preferred that her first name
be used in this article) was thrilled. "It went really well,"
she commented after the class. "All indications are this class
is going to be first-rate."
Wendelien was the moving force behind the distance learning
venture, initially intending to attend the class on the University
of California San Diego (UCSD) campus, but then learning the
class was oversubscribed. The instructor, UCSD Professor Ajit
Varki, suggested that Wendelien connect to the class remotely
from the Scripps Research campus, joining distance learning
students from the University of California Berkeley and the
University of California Davis.
Wendelien approached Marylyn Rinaldi, administrative director
of the graduate program, about attending the class via distance
learning from the Scripps Research campus. Rinaldi met the
suggestion with enthusiasm.
"Distance learning opens up a whole new range of possibilities
for students," comments Rinaldi. "I believe we'll see more
and more of this kind of arrangement in the future."
Wendelien notes that Ruth Stewart of the Office of Technology
Development was also helpful, setting up and testing the equipment
for the class. Technology Development had previously purchased
the video conferencing equipment for meetings with industry
representatives. Upon request, the office makes the equipment
available to faculty and staff from other departments at the
The most prominent pieces of the video conferencing equipment
are two large monitors. For the distance learning class, one
monitor showed an image of students in the conference room
at Scripps Research (complete with panning, zoom, and volume
control). The other projected the image of one or more other
locations for the classUC San Diego, UC Berkeley, UC
Davis, or Scripps Research. For most of the class, an image
of Varki and his visual aids dominated this screen.
The "Essentials of Glycobiology" class will be particularly
useful to Wendelien, as her thesis project in the Burton lab
focuses on the structure and immunogenicity of the Ebola virus,
which causes a rare but deadly infection that kills from 50
to 90 percent of its victims.
Citing a recent collaboration between Scripps Research Professors
Ian Wilson and Dennis Burton, Wendelien says, "Work with the
HIV virus has shown that foreign patterns of sugars can elicit
a human immune response. I am interested in whether the arrangement
of sugars on the Ebola virus glycoprotein can be used to elicit
or evade neutralizing antibodies. This information can then
be used to pave the way for specific vaccines and/or antibody
Other graduate students attending the class from the Scripps
Research campus include: Joon Youb Lee, Bao Duong, Rena Astronomo,
Erin Scherer, and Chris Scanlan.
The success of the distance learning technology bodes well
for expanding educational opportunities not only for existing
Kellogg School graduate students, but also for future students,
both at the Scripps Research La Jolla and Palm Beach County
campuses. Scripps Florida is slated to open a graduate education
program component in the next five years.
"This technology has the potential to offer Scripps Florida
students access to the tremendous intellectual resources we
have in La Jolla, and vice versa," says Rinaldi. "It
may eventually enhance the quality of programs on both coasts."
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu