Document Cameras Help Inject Life into Georgia College Telecourses
On any given day in Rome, Ga., you can flip on the TV and odds are you'll be able to watch a telecourse on FCTV, Floyd College's own cable TV channel. At the same time, Floyd professors may be teleconferencing with peers at another college halfway across the state. Simultaneously, lecturers will be giving multimedia presentations, incorporating elements created by the college's Department of Extended Learning. What makes the Floyd College program especially unique is how all of this is accomplished by a technical staff of two. A Myriad of Activities Floyd College offers telecourses through FCTV, a 24-hour cable TV station they operate themselves. Last year nine for-credit courses plus seven weekly auxiliary educational programs were produced and aired; this year, 10 credit courses and the seven weekly programs are available. The college also offers teleconferencing through GSAMS, Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System teleconferencing network. GSAMS comprises 208 sites, linking classrooms in universities, technical and K-12 schools, plus medical facilities and other sites like Zoo Atlanta. Four telecourses were delivered via GSAMS last year; 12 are planned for this year. Each GSAMS site utilizes a Gallary videoconferencing unit from Compression Labs, Inc. (CLI) teamed with visual presentation equipment from Elmo Mfg. Corp., of New Hyde Park, N.J. Indeed, Elmo's EV-308 document camera plays a critical role for GSAMS. Floyd's staff of two have also coordinated 20 different teleconferences over GSAMS. On top of this, the small staff also assists instructors with multimedia presentations for classroom teaching. Dependability Is Mandatory One would think the department relies on a myriad of expensive, high-tech devices to process all of the work. Not so, says Carla Patterson, Director of Extended Learning at Floyd College. "We run on a limited budget and have to be selective, so the products we choose must have quality and be incredibly user-friendly," she says. "We also need a product we can get constant use out of without it breaking." According to Patterson, the department uses the advanced Elmo EV-368 document camera over 20 hours a week just for FCTV productions, not counting the time spent to help instructors with various projects. "The Elmo is very easy to learn and to train faculty members how to use," she adds. "In fact, it's helped facilitate production so unbelievably that faculty members want to buy one for their traditional classrooms." Osmosis of Multimedia Ironically, this osmosis of multimedia to the traditional classroom is perhaps the greatest benefit of the entire distance-learning program. Patterson gives many examples, but one of the most vivid is a nursing instructor's use of the Elmo EV-308 document camera. Traditionally the instructor had a difficult time showing her class of over 100 students how to put the proper amount of medicine in a syringe. She would, for instance, attempt to fill the syringe while holding it overhead -- an awkward and somewhat dangerous maneuver. Using the Elmo document camera, however, now she d'es the same procedure under the camera lens, projecting it onto video screens, traditional roll-down screens or the wall. And everyone gets a close-up view. Another example is the Anatomy and Physiology professor who used an Elmo slide-to-video converter (TRV-35G) to incorporate images of muscle and cell cross-sections into a telecourse. So impressed with that unit's ease of use, he now wants to learn how to use the Elmo document camera for classroom presentations. For 95/96, cooperative ventures for the community delivered via FCTV and GSAMS are expanding. All telecourse faculty have volunteered to teach again and regular faculty are enthusiastic about integrating more multimedia into their teaching. There is no doubt that easy-to-use tools are one key to all of this success.
This article originally appeared in the 12/01/1995 issue of THE Journal.