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Oregon Chooses New Platform for Community College Conferencing

The Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) is recommending the use of a new Web conferencing system for its schools to improve to delivery of online courses to non-traditional and rurally located students.

Previously, CCWD has not had a contract for web conferencing; historically, its schools have used a variety of systems based on individual preferences. This contract, for the use of Blackboard's Collaborate service, goes until June 30, 2014.

"This agreement enhances our ability to connect between colleges while providing increased access and learning options for students," said Shalee Hodgson , education division director at CCWD.

Collaborate combines several functions, including Web video conferencing for groups of users, instant messaging, and audio communications. The current release is version 12. The application can be used within Learn, Blackboard's learning management system, or as a stand-alone Web-conferencing solution, which was important to CCWD, since not all campuses use the same LMS.

CCWD handles funding, new college development, and course approval for the 17 community colleges in the state. The department has its own experience with Collaborate as well as the familiarity of a few member institutions--including Blue Mountain Community College--to gauge the viability of the service. Blue Mountain has been using earlier versions of the software that eventually became Collaborate since 2006. There it is used for classroom instruction, tutoring, and advising. According to a statement, Blue Mountain lecture recordings were viewed by users 23,000 times during 2012.

Hodgson said the pace for adoption of Collaborate is "hard to predict," but she anticipates that eventually all of the colleges will implement it.

Another hope for the new system is that by having the community colleges on a single collaboration platform, faculty and administration meetings can be held on the Web, reducing travel costs in the state.

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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