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Videoconferencing to link nursing school and Waco campus

March 21, 1997

Wilson Aurbach

Lariat Reporter

The term 'distance learning' has historically concerned continuing education classes and correspondence courses.

Distance learning is any mode of delivering instruction in which the students are not required to be physically present with the teacher.

Starting in the 1970s, some schools began to experiment with classes that relied on video-taped lectures.

While this method of teaching was cost-effective and time-efficient, in most cases, it proved to be cold and impersonal.

Today, in the information age, students are able to receive course credit in ways never before thought possible.

The University of Memphis offers a class for its graduate-level journalism students which meet on-line once a week in a chat-room to discuss assigned readings, while outside assignments are communicated by e-mail.

The University is working on a videoconferencing link that would take the distance learning experience to the next level. Construction is planned to be completed in time for the fall semester and will probably be in Moody Memorial Library.

'We want to take distance and time out of the equation, ' said Dr. James Moshinski, an information systems lecturer.

Moshinski said the new Distance Learning Room will be a 'U-shaped' lecture hall capable of seating approximately 20 people. At the front of the room, monitors will display the image of the second party that is piped in by using powerful telephone lines.

Between each set of chairs there will be a microphone and a button, that when pressed it signals the distant members of the conference that someone has a question. Then a motorized camera will focus on the person who wants to speak so that the conversation participants will be able to see each other. The entire system is fully automated.

The initial plans for the videoconferencing room are to better link the University's nursing school in Dallas with the Waco campus.

A Distance Learning Room, similar to the one that will soon be at the University, will also be at the Baylor School of Nursing.

Nursing students who are now taking elective courses at other universities in the Dallas area will be able to continue taking classes from professors who live in Waco.

Students will also have the ability to hold committee meetings and training sessions for faculty, staff and students without the time and expense involved in frequently traversing the treacherous Interstate 35.

However, the videoconferencing room can be integrated into many other aspects of the University.

Soon professors can teach in Singapore without ever leaving the Waco campus. Guest lecturers could more easily be scheduled to speak if they did not have to travel to Waco.

'It will be possible to have interactive conversations [with executives in New York] for the price of a long-distance phone call,' said Dr. Reagan Ramsower, information systems professor.

Students can potentially save precious time and thousands of dollars by conducting interviews with employers through on-campus videoconferencing rather than flying to all corners of the globe.

Videoconferencing is not an obscure technology. There are 300 Kinko's locations across the country, including one in Waco, that provide this service for as little as $75 per hour during off peak times.

Funding for this project will come directly from the President's fund.

'It is more of a cost of doing business. We simply have to get in there because we cannot afford not to. This is the new direction of higher education,' Ramsower said in a November press release.

A new major, Performance Improvement Technology, has been created to allow students to learn more about using videoconferencing.

The University is being careful to avoid an uninvolved style of instruction.

'We want to keep the teacher in charge of the classroom not the technology,' said Moshinski.

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