Welcome to ETH World
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Frequently Asked Questions

ETH World 2000-2005

The ETH World program came to an end in 2005. This website is no longer updated and contains archival information about the activities.

What is ETH World?
ETH World is a program to establish a virtual space for communication and cooperation independent of time and place. The program aims to make this space widely used and accessible to all stakeholders of ETH Zurich.

ETH World supports all members of ETH in their core business - teaching, learning, research and the associated management tasks. The program enables new forms of networking and cooperation with business, industry and society.

How will ETH World change ETH Zurich?
You could call ETH World a "change program", but it is not the intention of ETH World to impose top-down changes on ETH. New technologies are rapidly changing our everyday lives, both private and at work. There are only very few - if any - ETH employees today who don't use a computer in their work. Surpringly, the teaching and learning processes are the ones that have been least affected so far.
ETH World wants to reinforce these changes and ensure their broad impact by introducing new tools and applications to support teaching, learning, research, the provision of services, and the associated management tasks. But the change initiated by ETH World is not only a technical process: it is also - and perhaps above all - a social and organizational process.
ETH World thus contributes to maintaining and strengthening the international competitiveness of ETH Zurich.

How can I contribute to the building of ETH World?
ETH World is being built in the form of many individual projects and activities. Some of these are partly financed by ETH World, and all units of ETH Zurich can apply for such funding (see Call for Proposals). But the objectives of ETH World are also pursued through many other means, e.g. in the many e-learning projects carried out within the FILEP funding program, or in the form of other development activities in the departments or individual laboratories, the Computing Services (ID), the Center for Teaching and Learning (ELZ), and in other units.
But the "proof of the pudding is in the eating": ETH World is a success when it becomes part of everyday life at the university, when the new tools and services get used. So, for example, a student registering online, a professor integrating laptops in her teaching, a staff member looking up information over the wireless LAN infrastructure during a meeting, or an alumna accessing personalized information are contributing to the building and use of ETH World.

How much does ETH World cost?
Can ETH Zurich afford such a program in times of financial austerity?

ETH World is a six-year program running to the end of 2005. The direct budget for 2004 is CHF 4.5 million. In addition, the units responsible for ETH World projects contribute own funding to their activities, many with as much as 50% of the total costs. In fact, compared with the many activities and units across ETH Zurich that share the goals of ETH World but are funded through other channels, this is still a modest sum.
ETH World is not a luxury program: it supports ETH Zurich in reaching its strategic goals. ETH World also ensures a more efficient and effective use of scarce resources. It helps to coordinate various projects and activities. This enables scattered groups to bundle their resources, together make things they could not afford on their own and speed up development.

Who / how many people are involved in the implementation of the ETH World program?
There are nine persons working part-time in the Program Management Team; each of the round 30 projects involve 2-3 persons. Then there are the activities and units that are not funded by ETH World but pursue similar goals, such as the FILEP projects, the Computing Services (ID) or the Network for Educational Technology (NET). And, last but not least, there are all the users, who transfer ETH World from vision to reality.

Does ETH World make ETH Zurich into a distance education university? Will the students in the future stay at home and learn over the Internet?
Independence of time and space does mean increased flexibility for students to plan where, when and how they participate in a learning event. However, it is not the strategy of ETH Zurich to become a distance education university. ETH World introduces new technologies, especially the Internet, to support and complement traditional teaching and learning. Continuing education is probably an area where "pure" distance learning opportunities have the largest potential. But as a research university ETH Zurich is and will remain an institution where physical presence is important for all activities.

Where can I find out about e-learning courses offered by ETH?
The DEEDS project is preparing a central access point for all e-learning products offered to the public by ETH Zurich and makes them accessible on the Internet. But most e-learning materials used at ETH Zurich are integral parts of the "regular" teaching and are not intended as stand-alone learning modules.

What's the practical benefit of ETH World?
For some projects the impact and benefit is fairly evident, e.g. the projects Neptun and Wireless LAN. These projects with broad impact, potentially affect all or most ETH members. Other projects, such as arc-line or Vireal Lab have similar broad impact for more precisely defined target groups.
ETH World also puts in place the infrastructure for new services, e.g. through the project IT Building Blocks. Here, the benefit is less visible, but because this project makes new, useful services possible, the benefit is also broad.
And finally, there are a number of "blue-sky" projects. These projects, e.g. Entry Points or Advanced Querying and Coordination of Multimedia Information explore new technologies and applications. They have a great potential benefit, but on a longer term.
The social and organizational change brought about by ETH World will "make the ETH a better world" to study and work in. This is probably the most sustainable benefit of the program.

ETH World seems to be focused on teaching, learning and research. How can the program help me in my administrative tasks?
ETH World supports all members of ETH in their core business: teaching, learning, research - and the associated management tasks. A very practical example of support for administrative work is the new staff portal, which is being developed with the support of ETH World. This portal will provide faster access to information and easy access to all e-services at ETH Zurich.

What were the results of the conceptual competition organized by ETH World in 2000? Can the results already be seen?
The "beyond Luxury" team that won the ETH World conceptual competition presented a broad spectrum of visionary ideas. Reality introduces constraints of time and money. The first steps of the implementation, which is now under way, focus on personalized access to information. A team from mitLinks AG is working with the ETH Web Office and the Computing Services (ID) to redesign the ETH web site. They are developing the new ETH portal that will allow for personalized access for different target groups. The first results will be visible during 2003.
The Program Management will ensure that the original visions are captured and that they are implemented wherever it makes sense and is possible.

Are privacy and security aspects considered sufficiently by ETH World?
The new information and communication technologies generally pose enormous challenges for the protection of privacy and security. ETH Zurich is fully aware of the responsibility and ensures that all necessary precautions are made. Privacy protection is enshrined in law, but this is not enough. Acceptance and effective use of the new technologies are based on the trust of all users, and this trust must be earned through transparency and reliability. As we depend on technical tools more and more, we become increasingly vulnerable. Therefore ensuring data security and the integrity of the technical infrastructure is of paramount importance.

What will happen with ETH World when the program comes to an end in 2005?
ETH World aims to develop and implement tools and services that become part of the regular activities of ETH Zurich - the sooner the better. When the program comes to and end in 2005 these will continue to support ETH in its core business and help to maintain and strengthen its international competitiveness.

Wouldn't the development promoted by ETH World happen anyway?
Of course it would, at least some of it. But ETH World accelerates the development. Thanks to coordination of activities and projects many overlapping efforts are avoided and economies of scale are generated. Thus larger development projects can be financed for which there would otherwise not have been sufficient resources.

Many institutes and departments had already developed their own learning platforms. What is the added value of ETH World?
Freedom of research and teaching is a fundamental principle of academic culture, and ETH World does in no way infringe on this freedom. And ETH Zurich is such a large and heterogeneous organization that one solution will not fit everyone. But ETH World can help to coordinate those activities that want or benefit from closer cooperation. Not everyone wants, can afford or is able to reinvent the wheel.

How is ETH World different from other virtual university initiatives?
The comprehensive approach makes ETH World unique: the program addresses all areas of activity of ETH Zurich and supports all its members in their core business - teaching, learning, research and the associated management tasks. ETH World thus contributes to maintaining and strengthening the international competitiveness of ETH.

Does ETH World cooperate and share experience and information with other universities in Switzerland or internationally?
International interaction is a normal part of all academic activities at ETH. To what extent and in what form this exchange or cooperation takes place in ETH World depends on the individual projects. Many of the projects have been presented at international conferences or exhibitions. Experiences are being documented in scientific papers. Frequent visits to and from ETH Zurich contribute to a steady flow of exchanges.

How is the knowledge that is generated within ETH World transferred outside the university?
Openness and sharing of information are characteristic of a university. Wherever possible ETH World supports the use of open source software and materials, a sign of its openness to cooperation and exchange. And ETH World enables new forms of networking and cooperation with business, industry and society, for example through the ETH Alumni portal or the Industry portal of the Center for Product Development.


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© 2012 ETH Zurich | Imprint | Disclaimer | 1 July 2005