Distance Learning Comes Alive with Video Conferencing

Globe University trains admissions employees, records nursing exercises in simulation labs and connects classrooms through video.

by Tom Umphress / October 10, 2012 0

In some circles, distance learning has been a desirable but distant goal. With video conferencing, Globe University has met that goal.

Globe University has used video conferencing for almost three years to connect classrooms, train admissions professionals, and run business meetings. With 18 video conferencing systems across 11 campuses, we’ve streamlined operations, controlled operating costs and—most importantly—offered our students more classes and opportunities to interact with peers and instructors.

Video conferencing allows greater interaction with students, which is critical for the education process. It enables students to take part in remote classes even when their class size might be too small. What’s more, video conferencing allows instructors to “read” the classroom, providing more attention to students than an audio-only conference setting would offer.

Our first application of video conferencing for distance learning was the training of admissions employees. Affiliated with the Minnesota School of Business, Globe University has more than 28 locations in five U.S. states. As our enrollment has grown, we’ve continually improved admissions training. Video conferencing technology from LifeSize, a division of Logitech, links our admissions departments. This makes it easier to meet about enrollment and registration practices, hold student interviews and train admissions representatives.

Globe’s new admissions hires go through three weeks of intensive training. Previously, out of state employees had been flown to Minnesota for training, which was both expensive for Globe and inconvenient for admissions professionals because of the time they spent away from their homes. With video conferencing, training can be held at regional locations to reduce time spent out of the office.

A key admissions training exercise is a mock presentation to students about what Globe has to offer. We use the LifeSize Video Center to record the presentation and play it back later for analysis. Live streams of these sessions go to hiring managers, letting them essentially sit in on the training process and gauge their employees’ strengths.

From admissions, Globe turned the distance learning program to our nursing curriculum. Nursing students use training dummies in simulation labs, and their performance is recorded, reviewed and critiqued. In the past, student teams had to take turns in simulation labs, evaluating the “patient” with their instructor. Recorded video conferencing now lets students and professors evaluate their performance in a classroom setting. Students get the benefit of viewing how they did in the simulation, which makes them more receptive to critiques of their performance.

The most exciting part of Globe’s distance learning program is our “Connected Classroom” initiative. Starting in our Rochester, Minn. and Sioux Falls, S.D., campuses, Globe has connected classrooms with an instructor and students at one end point and a separate classroom of students at the other. This has given Globe the opportunity to provide classes at campuses where low enrollment might otherwise have prevented the classes from being offered.

The pilot for the “Connected Classroom” project was a criminal justice class emphasizing crime scene investigation. To train students in observation skills, the instructor would have someone enter the classroom, drop off a note and leave. Some time later, the class would be quizzed on the person’s physical description.

Initially, classroom instructors were concerned that students at the remote end of the video feed might be at a disadvantage in answering those questions. But with high definition video, that was not a problem, and the instructors were quick to adopt the tool.

Continuing advances in video conferencing technology are allowing us to build on the promise of distance learning in new ways. Six Globe campus locations now participate in the Connected Classroom initiative. This coming quarter, new technology will allow more than two campuses at a time to be linked together, providing a more rewarding learning experience for all our students.

Tom Umphress is IT director of Professional Services for Globe Education Network. He can be reached at tumphress@globeuniversity.edu.