Advancements in video technology have had a tremendous impact on the creation and proliferation of distance learning programs. By integrating video conferencing solutions, universities are able to extend the reach of their programs to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. Calvin Hughes, Instructional Technologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, talks about his experience with video conferencing and the impact it has had on the University.

IVCi: Can you give us a brief overview of your video environment?
CH: We currently have 5 classrooms that hook up locally at the College of Dentistry. There are also 6 or 7 locations across the state that have Cisco telemedicine carts for tele-dentistry purposes. We started the Dental Hygiene [distance learning] program in 2003 for the West division which currently graduates four students each year. There are currently about 50 hours of classes a week that are transmitted out to the West region. In 2010 we expanded into telemdecine carts.

IVCi: How do you connect local and remote students into one classroom?
CH: The main classroom has a 52” TV on the side of the wall that remote students show up on. They can hear and speak to them over speakers and portable microphones. For students in the west division, there are two screens, one with the professor and one with content, and individual monitors in front of each student.

IVCi: What were the drivers that led you to implement video?

We’re a State University with state funding and Nebraska Medical Center and University are located on the Eastern side of the state. There are some community colleges on the Western side that have nursing programs but nothing with dental programs. We have a duty to try and get dental students out in the field on the Western side which is less populated. If students are doing classes out there, they are more likely to stay and practice out there.

IVCi: What has been the end user (professor/student) reaction to video?

CH: Everyone is pretty open minded about it. We don’t have a problem getting students or filling up the distance classes. Remote students aren’t always as eager to answer questions sometimes but the instructors are good about making sure they participate by asking them questions directly.

IVCi: Can you point to any specific metrics that have been influenced by video?

CH: We graduate four students a year from the hygiene program and that’s four students who might not have gotten their degree.

IVCi: What was your favorite moment using video?

CH: The first tele-dentisry consult was very exciting. We put a lot of work in getting those telemedicine carts in and around the state. The Western part of the state is under populated and under-served by dentists and we wanted to reduce a patient’s drive time when needing to see a specialist. The carts are spread out across the state and allow for easier access to specialists. The initial consultation can be handled over video and a specialist can determine if patients need to come to their office or if their local dentist can fix the problem.

IVCi: Do you have any advice for universities implementing video for the first time?

First, have a good support group of people who want to push the technology. These people can be very valuable when implementing the solution. Also, most of our programs have been grant funded and it’s been hard moving away from the grant funding to be able to upgrade the technology ourselves. Have a plan in place for updates and replacement costs so that funding is in place when the time comes.