Telepresence isn’t for every institution. Have your campus leaders considered other related technologies?
“Think of video conferencing on a spectrum from low cost on a student’s own device up to sophisticated telepresence systems,” says Lew Epstein of Steelcase. He explains that sharing projects outside the classroom or across the world can be done on almost any screen.” All of that can happen with the device in your pocket or on large screens in the classroom; the point is that within that spectrum, it’s all executable now and it’s all happening.”
The choice for which video technology to use on campus could mean selecting another technology, like videoconferencing, for some areas and perhaps telepresence for others. That’s the case at Duke, where advanced telepresence rooms aren’t the only solution, CIO Tracy Futhey shares.
“While our strategy includes a significant focus on telepresence, we don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach and we have hundreds of other videoconferencing classrooms, meeting rooms, and facilities, down to the desktop video level,” she says.
One institution that’s had success with thinking on the smaller side of the spectrum is Temple University (Pa.). The Fox School of Business’ Online MBA, an entirely remote program, uses Cisco WebEx to allow students from California to Connecticut to obtain an MBA from the comfort of home, but with a personal approach.
The two-year program, which was started in 2009, mixes synchronous and asynchronous activities and is capped at 25 students “just to keep that sense of community,” says Darin Kapanjie, managing director of online education and educational technology for the Fox School of Business and academic director of the online MBA program. For 30 percent of the contact hours (every Thursday night for two hours), students get face time with their professor and classmates using WebEx and a webcam. Using this technology, students are able to break into small groups, record presentations, use video desktop sharing, and collaborate outside of given class hours.
“As far as the use of the technology, [the students] absolutely love it,” Kapanjie shares. “While they need the flexibility because of their work/life situation and can’t afford to leave their current jobs to take on an MBA full time, they also demand ongoing interaction with faculty and their peers.”
For the institution, the price is right. Individual WebEx accounts go for about $50 a month, but with enterprise-wide licensing, that cost can be brought down significantly. Another perk is that the program is browser based, meaning students don’t have to install any extra software to enroll.
“The beauty is the mobility and the flexibility that web conferencing provides,” says Kapanjie