2006 Campus Technology Innovators: Rich Media

2006 Campus Technology Innovators

Innovator: University of Tennessee
College of Veterinary Medicine



2006 CT Innovators: Tennessee

SIMS: Changing teaching methods via a "buffet."

Challenge Met

At the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, administrators wanted to maximize the use of technology in teaching. Heeding that call to ed tech greatness: UTCVM’s Instructional Resources (IR) team, which set out to develop rich media resources to deliver a wide variety of modes of information to students. Michael Sims, professor and director of IR, credits UTCVM faculty for their interest in technology: “We have a computerliterate faculty that is willing and anxious to try new technologies.” IR’s goal is to offer a buffet of technologies that faculty and students can choose from to enhance their individual preferences and needs—and to help keep pace with changing technologies and trends in the school’s subject areas. At the same time, IR steers away from technologies that are too complex, ensuring fewer technological difficulties to discourage users.

“We promote but do not push technology on faculty,” explains Sims. “When something is new, we provide a general description of what the technology will accomplish in a teaching/learning environment.” IR further educates faculty with lunchtime ‘mini-seminars,’ and has a full-time staff person available to further explain, one-on-one, how the technology works.“We also have paid student ‘first responders’ in each lecture room,” says Sims. “Their job is to assist faculty who are using unfamiliar technology.”

How They Did It

IR selected technologies with an eye to those with potential for improving the effectiveness or efficiency of teaching and learning. “We were particularly interested in engaging students to participate interactively in their own education, in the classroom as well as in study groups,” says Sims. “And we wanted to deliver content as near to ‘anywhere/anytime’ as possible, to minimize the time spent in locating relevant subject matter.”

IR did not shy away from cutting-edge technologies that could bring about major paradigm shifts in teaching methods. Take, for example, their implementation of virtual microscopy from Bacus Laboratories: Microscope slides are digitized in high resolution, so that a PC replaces traditional microscope hardware. The digital images can then be used in presentations or exams, archived, replicated, transferred over networks, distributed on CD, integrated into course material on the web or the school’s CMS—all to allow ubiquitous access. “I am convinced that digital microscopy has the potential to replace glass slides in teaching labs,” says Sims.

Other offerings in IR's buffet:

  • Tablet PCs from Hewlett-Packard, for classroom use
  • A powerful intranet, dubbed “VetNet,” for the distribution of academic materials, including a digital film library
  • Twice-a-year production of CDs that contain all of the image-rich materials that students need
  • Student response systems from the firm eInstruction, for in-class interaction
  • Smart Technologies interactive pen displays, for annotating electronic presentations
  • A digital image archival and retrieval system from Extensis, to share images for teaching
  • A computer classroom for administration of exams; Microsoft PowerPoint is used to present exam questions with embedded images.
  • A videoconferencing system from Polycom
  • Webcasting with Sonic Foundry’s Mediasite

Next Steps

UTCVM is considering the use of distance education technology to share information with other schools. Says Sims,“UTCVM is part of a small family of veterinary colleges (31 in North America), and we need to work together to extend and expand our course offerings. Through a cooperative program, students can receive more specialized training.”


UTCVM’s successful implementation of so many different rich media resources came out of a strong planning process. IR’s first step was to develop a list of critical features, and then discuss those needs with vendors. Says Sims, “We then developed a revised list of needs based on vendor input, and investigated trial uses or demonstrations of products from those vendors who seemed to be most interested in our application. This process ensured a better understanding of each product and its use before we made a purchase.”