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EagleVision: A Live Virtual Classroom for Connected Learners

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide has been providing distance education opportunities in the field of aviation and aerospace since the 1970s. Since the inception of our Worldwide Campus more than 40 years ago, our mission has been to provide education to busy professionals and active duty military that equals the rigors and quality of more traditional programs in higher education. We do this through our 5 Ways to Learn model: the "traditional" onsite classroom; the EagleVision Classroom live virtual platform that can connect classrooms and instructors from virtually anywhere in the world; EagleVision Home that allows students to connect with virtual classes and each other from their homes; an asynchronous online learning environment; and a blended program. [Photo, above: A deployed military student connects to his coursework while serving on a helicopter.]

The deployment of our latest platform, EagleVision--a live virtual classroom powered by Saba Centra technology and integrated with other key platforms at our institution like Blackboard and Microsoft Office--has been one of the highlights of our technology strategy as we develop and implement systems and software across our network to meet the growing demands of a highly mobile and widely dispersed student body.

EagleVision was first deployed by ERAU Worldwide in 2007 on a trial basis, as part of a strategic initiative to increase student satisfaction and based on a proof of concept that our faculty had brought forward. The live virtual classroom is now a key element of our 5 Ways to Learn model and supports our themes of mobility and collaboration. We have brought the physical classroom to the Internet and offer video, audio, text chatting, white boarding, polling, and application sharing in a real-time environment. If a student desires an education experience with aspects of a traditional classroom but offering the convenience of attending from anywhere, then this is the delivery mode for them.

Since our launch of EagleVision, the reviews from faculty and students have been very positive, and requests for more courses delivered in this format have increased year after year. Student demand for EagleVision has increased nearly 100 percent in the last year alone. One of our military students recently told us: "I think I've learned more from EagleVision when compared to traditional classrooms, and it’s because there are far more resources available. To have contact with someone who might be in Australia or England or Italy or just on the other side of the United States, to have that meeting of different worlds… it's impressive." --Jacob Gurarino, U.S. Navy (BS, Professional Aeronautics '11).

Numerous comments like Gurarino's have validated our work on EagleVision over the last five years. It is noteworthy that along with the other modes in our 5 Ways to Learn, our military students who use EagleVision have been able to maintain their studies while downrange in Afghanistan and Iraq and remain on target for their intended graduation dates. The reach and scope of our classrooms never ceases to amaze me and I continue to be proud to be a part of something that is enhancing so many lives.

While EagleVision is available for students and faculty attending from individual locations, its availability in our classrooms is just as important. Before the advent of online learning capabilities, students who were geographically spread out often ran into roadblocks with course availability if they were coming to us from a smaller campus. They may have had to wait for another semester to pass before being able to take a class required for their degree program--sometimes delaying graduation. EagleVision, integrated with the other delivery platforms we employ, such as Blackboard, resolved this problem by bringing together small classrooms from various locations into one virtual classroom. Groups of students from multiple classrooms around the world connect with an instructor and students in another location, all taking the same course.

Beyond the added value of class availability on demand, EagleVision has introduced another highly valuable capability for our students. While students from any state or country may attend the same class in a collaborative, real-time experience, instructors can also invite industry leaders to attend lectures and field questions from the students who will, themselves, be entering the field upon graduation. For example, one of our instructors, based in Las Vegas, NV conducted his classes through EagleVision with students from around the country and invited the development project manager for the B-2 program in Palmdale, CA to speak to his Aircraft/Spacecraft Development class.

As education professionals, we continually seek new ways to reach and educate our students. EagleVision has exceeded our expectations to fulfill that purpose to an extent we would not have thought possible just a few years ago. As other educators and institutions seek to improve their delivery formats to meet the needs of rapidly diversifying student bodies, we are very happy to have moved forward with our platforms, ahead of the curve. It is my hope that our success with EagleVision will not only serve as an model of quality education for other institutions in the growing realm of online delivery, but also as a clear example to students that they can receive a quality education--without delay--regardless of where they live or work.

[Editor's note: Becky Vasquez appears in a video about ERAU Worldwide's EagleVision.]

About the Author

Becky Vasquez is the chief technology officer for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide.

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