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Colleges Tap Wimba for Business Continuity During Campus Emergencies

Several colleges and universities have found they can leverage collaboration software from Wimba to prepare for and respond to crises that would otherwise disrupt communication or instruction.

In April 2009, Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota relied on Wimba Classroom--a virtual classroom environment--to continue course delivery after the campus was shut down for a month following severe flooding from the Sheyenne River.

In May 2008, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in San Antonio turned to Wimba Pronto--an academic-centric instant messaging system--to communicate with students, faculty, and administrators after a fire burned down its main administrative building, destroying the university's phone system.

"We were only closed one day," said Raquel Moncado, instructional technology specialist at the university. "Classes resumed right away because of Lake Online, the name we gave our Blackboard system, and Wimba. Many professors conducted classes online from home. We had the tools and we knew how to use them, so we were prepared."

The University of Utah in Salt Lake City recently produced and distributed a video entitled, "What If They Closed The Campus?" pointing its community to the tools available in the event of a disaster or outbreak such as swine flu. Available on YouTube, the video includes details about the use of course management systems and Wimba for uninterrupted communication.

Dalhousie University in Halifax used Wimba Classroom for Nova Scotia's chief medical officer to update 150 members of the province's medical community about the swine flu outbreak.

"Wimba was the only technology that could ramp up almost immediately and be easily accessible by every physician in the province," said Phil O'Hara, assistant director of Academic Computing Services at Dalhousie U.

"An increasing number of our customers employ Wimba's collaborative technology for use beyond teaching and learning, including professional development, departmental meetings and disaster recovery planning," said Carol Vallone, Wimba's CEO. "The disruption of learning and potential financial implications of tuition reimbursement in the wake of disaster are too significant to ignore. Although we certainly hope no customer has to deploy its disaster recovery plan, we are pleased to be part of the solution when and if it becomes necessary."

The Wimba Collaboration Suite supplements course management systems with interactive technologies such as voice, video, podcasting, instant messaging, application sharing, polling, and whiteboarding. Faculty can also use Wimba software to convert Microsoft Word documents into accessible course content and to create and administer tests, quizzes, and exams.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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