Smart Classrooms

Lecture Capture Helps Riverside Meet Nursing Demand

American colleges are benefitting immensely from increased enrollments in professional programs, especially those that promise financial stability, like nursing. But there can be too much of a good thing.

For example, what do you do when 500 applicants are competing for 60 seats in your two-year nursing program? That's just what happened at Southern California's Riverside Community College. Administrators there didn't just want to turn those students away. Instead, they scrambled their technology leaders and launched a distance learning program--one that's built around lecture capture--to meet the demand.

Aside from meeting that excess demand, the college's audiovisual systems have also helped RCC to prepare its nursing students for the transition to university-level study through a cooperative distance learning arrangement with California State University, Fullerton.

Equipping Classrooms, Capturing Lectures, and Delivering Instruction
The task of finding solutions to these challenges fell to Stephen Ashby, RCC's multimedia operations specialist. First, Ashby needed to figure out how to accept more students into the nursing program without expanding facilities and staff at the college, located. For this, he turned to audiovisual technologies, including lecture capture.

"We sought a way to digitally expand the classroom by allowing students to learn from their homes," said Ashby. "We also wanted to reach out to 'would be' students who are work-at-home-moms or who are individuals in the workforce who need to learn at their leisure."

Ashby determined the best solution would be to record and deliver classes for distance learners.

The solution couldn't interfere with classroom instruction, and the chosen method also needed to be accessible by a variety of students, regardless of the quality of their computer equipment. Ashby said the solution he chose, Sonic Foundry's Mediasite, stays out of the way of the teacher, allows students to access class instruction from their homes, and, importantly, doesn't require students to upgrade their existing hardware. Distance learners could even access classes using dial-up Internet connections. The lecture capture and Webcast solution also provided integrated closed captioning to accommodate students who are hearing impaired.

With this particular system, a capture and play device records in high definition everything the teacher says and shows. The system captures, encodes, and synchronizes content from any video, audio, and DVI/VGA device used during the lecture. The unit also has polling features, allowing teachers to test students for their knowledge of the material as the presentation is being delivered.

"All of the equipment in the classroom is run through a switcher/scaler that outputs a signal to the video projector in the room and is also ingested into the Mediasite," said Ashby. "So anything shown to the students in the room (VHS, DVD, document camera, PC, or laptop) is captured by the Mediasite, as is the talking head video of the instructor teaching the class."

The content can then be streamed live over the Internet or archived for on-demand access. The lectures can also be turned into podcasts or published to a CD or DVD or other physical medium for accessing without an Internet connection.

Ashby said he captures 12 lectures per week. Instructors typically create the content, but, in some nursing classes, students create and capture presentations themselves. Usage of the Mediasite device has also expanded to include human resources and emergency response training at Riverside Community College.

The first semester that the distance learning option was offered, 12 additional students were enrolled. Ten more were added the second semester, and an additional 18 the third. The number of new distance learning students is expected to grow each year.

Collaboration Between College and University
Another challenge for Ashby was to help those Riverside students who wanted to continue their education toward earning their BN degrees, Nursing students traditionally advance to the program at California State University, Fullerton. But the commute has been a barrier. With their extreme congestion, the highways between Riverside and Fullerton made the commute a real hardship for all students residing and working in the Riverside area. The working students simply could not arrive at their evening classes in Fullerton on time.

To alleviate his students' commutes, Ashby turned to videoconferencing. "Our nursing department videoconferences with Cal State Fullerton in a joint cooperative effort to offer a BN program here at RCC, so students don't have to travel to Fullerton to get their BN. We use Polycom HDX systems for that," said Ashby.

Ashby said RCC videoconferences with Fullerton for four classes per week. Approximately 100 students are able to achieve their BN using the RCC-Cal State Fullerton connection.

Ashby said the videoconferencing with Cal State Fullerton will likely continue with few changes. The use of lecture capture, however, is expected to expand to accommodate more activities at RCC. The lecture capture system has become an integral part of the institution, so much so that the original room that housed the lecture capture system has become the model for all rooms to follow.

"The way we designed the room to integrate all of the support technology has now evolved to become the standard for all of our campus renovation and new construction projects," he said.

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