On March 4th, IVCi and Polycom hosted a webinar covering Global Trends in Distance Learning. The session was presented by Marci Powell, Polycom’s Global Director for Education and Training. The webinar provided some insightful content on the latest trends in Distance Learning as well as some really amazing examples of how different educational organizations are applying the technology to their curriculum.

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Education today is at a tipping point. The ability to visually collaborate, share knowledge, and connect to the world is empowering educators to transform the learning environment thus motivating, and engaging students of all ages. The innovation occurring globally surrounding video-enabled blended learning or blended learning is worth the examination as we see implementation across all academic levels.

From dedicated studios and innovative classrooms to mobile devices, video conferencing today is dramatically enhancing and redefining teaching and learning. In fact, some say that the proliferation of videoconferencing affords flexibility and accessibility thus revolutionizing how educators teach and students learn. According to Gartner, mobile video users will grow from 429 Million to 2.4 Billion in 2016.

Join IVCi and Polycom for an informative webinar covering the latest trends and best practices in distance learning and visual collaboration technology.

In this session you will learn:

  • What this new video-enabled education environment looks like.
  • The role BYOD plays in blended learning environments.
  • How visual collaboration solutions can redefine teaching & learning.

Space is limited so reserve your spot today!

Global Trends in Distance Learning Technology
[Click here to Register]
Date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Time: 2:00 PM Eastern / 11:00 AM Pacific (US)

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Distance learning programs have been around for years.  They’re a great way to extend a college or university’s reach to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. For example, moving across the country or sometimes even the state isn’t feasible. However, with distance learning programs, these students can attend classes from their home and receive their degree remotely.

Over the years the method of delivering distance learning programs has evolved significantly.  The first virtual classroom wasn’t much of a classroom at all. Professors would upload PowerPoint presentations with voice clips attached to each slide and students would listen to each session on their own time. To facilitate discussion, professors could pose questions on message boards and require students to post responses or comment on each other’s posts.  Unfortunately, these classes lacked the interactivity and group discussion typically found in a traditional classroom. Students were unable to ask questions or discuss topics in real time causing an isolated learning experience.

Then web conferencing solutions came along. These solutions allowed a presenter to share content (a presentation) and talk through the slides while participants joined the conference and followed along virtually. This allowed students to ask questions and participate in real-time, making the learning experience much more interactive. However, these solutions lacked the face-to-face interaction common in traditional classrooms which allows students to bond and develop relationships with each other; both of which are necessary to stimulate open discussion.

Eventually, video conferencing began to integrate into web conferencing solutions. Cloud-based virtual meeting rooms were also developed which provided a way for professors and students to interact face-to-face while simultaneously viewing the presentation. This created a more interactive learning environment and allowed a virtual classroom to more closely emulate a traditional classroom.  However, the ability break out into small groups during class or work on group projects still presented a challenge. These services were not scalable and it was cost prohibitive to give small groups of students their own room let alone give each student his or her own virtual meeting.

Acano, a visual collaboration technology that was recently introduced, overcomes these scalability barriers and allows virtual classrooms to truly rival a traditional classroom. Every distance learning student can receive their own account and licenses can be redistributed as students graduate or leave the program. Virtual meeting rooms can be set up for each class and students can be subscribed to the classes they are registered for.  Additionally, professors can set up separate rooms for breakout sessions then subscribe small groups of students.  A list of rooms that users are subscribed to is always available, allowing students and professors to easily switch between different classes and breakout groups.  As a result, distance learning students are able to listen to a lecture while simultaneously viewing the presentation, easily engaging and interacting with professors and their peers, as well as participating in both class and group discussions.

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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.

Another school year is upon us, and again we are faced with the challenge of accessibility and cost of education.

Massive open online classes, more commonly referred to as MOOC’s, are gaining substantial popularity across the nation. These online courses, offered to large numbers of students, and often free of charge, use a recorded video curriculum that students can access at their convenience. One of the major benefits is the on-demand structure of that content. Furthermore, this increased accessibility allows students to participate regardless of their location or scheduled availability.

Although MOOC’s can vary drastically from class to class, they have one thing in common; their use of video. Combining video conferencing equipment and infrastructure, educators are able to record, edit, and stream high quality lectures and content. The growth of collaboration in education beyond traditional video conferencing also includes the use and integration of interactive whiteboards. Instructors are now using these interactive whiteboards to complement and add dimension to their online curriculum. The collaboration of these technologies give students the face-to-face feel of a traditional classroom without having to physically be there.

Recently, an increased number of universities around the country have started to offer both, single for-credit courses, as well as full-scale degrees using a paid MOOC platform. This structure of education gives institutions the ability to start attacking the cost and efficiency problems that traditional programs struggle with. Based on a recent article in the New York Times, Georgia Institute of Technology announced that they are planning to offer a MOOC-based online masters degree in computer science. The price tag for this degree will be $6,600, a staggering difference in comparison to the $45,000 for the on-campus offering. This is just one example of the multiple universities who are launching these for-credit, mass online classes and programs.

Along with a strong number of supporters, comes quite a bit of criticism around MOOC’s. Many educators believe that a blend of both virtual and traditional face-to-face learning, as opposed to an online-only structure, is the most effective combination for student success. Critics argue that these mass online programs are difficult to scale while still keeping the tuition rates at the lower end. Additionally, many also argue that recorded courses lack important real-time engagement and conversation. However, the true effectiveness of these classes is still up for debate due to a lack of concrete data available at this point.

With the wide spread popularity of this emerging education trend, there are sure to be many more debates on the subject. As th­­e number of these programs increase, the more we will be able to understand and judge how successful they really are. Do you think MOOC’s are the wave of the future in higher education?