High-Tech DL Facility Bridges Time and Space

T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), October 1992 | Go to article overview

High-Tech DL Facility Bridges Time and Space


Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville Technical College (GTC) is exploring and implementing cost-effective technologies to provide increased educational opportunities, resources and lifelong learning experiences to residents of 1,100-square-mile Greenville County, South Carolina.

The state's third-largest public higher education institute, GTC wanted to increase its service to county residents beyond two offcampus centers and classes at its 140-acre campus. To accomplish this, it is employing a distance-learning approach to bridge time and space between instructors and students.

"Greenville Technical College recognizes the need to fully serve the residents of our community," says Dr. Thomas E. Barton,Jr., president of Greenville Tech. "Our distance-learning program relies on state-of-the-art technology to allow us to reach out to students who, for whatever reason, have found it difficult to participate in our classes."

Michael Connet, the manager of distance learning at GTC, believes that, "The correspondence courses of the '70s are the forerunners of the distance learning programs of the '90s. He also cites the long-running Sunrise Semester telecourse series as an early example of distance education.

* Connecting the College

GTC designed its new 50,000-square-foot Technical Resource Center (TRC) to provide a mix of information, programming and instruction. This is accomplished through an extensive, integrated web of networks and systems that connect the college to the entire community.

Housed within the TRC, the Instructional Media Technology Division features distance-learning programming, systems operation, a teleproduction facility, an engineering unit and audio/visual services that provide collegewide assistance in addition to their direct support of distance education.

The TRC boasts a wide array of S-VHS and Mll-format video equipment from Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. in Secaucus, N.J. Connet recalls that from the outset, Panasonic was interested in the challenge of equipping the college. "We had talked to major manufacturer representatives at the trade shows," he comments," about purchasing more than $2 million in equipment and some vendors seemed mildly interested, but we never got a single follow-up call. Only Panasonic made the contact and then came to visit the college and talk about the big picture as well as the specifics of an immediate, small purchase."

"Panasonic [dealers] offered great pricing and service," Connet adds. "Panasonic's ability to provide systems integration was also an important factor. Specialists from Panasonic's broadcast, audio, duplication and CCTV division all came to work directly with us, saving us time, energy and improving our efficiency."

The first wave of equipment installation in the TRC has been completed, with the second phase expected to be operational by the end of this year. "We don't have a lot of money and we want to use it wisely," explains Connet," and we don't have a large staff to run around and operate equipment. The technology we selected is simple to operate, if not transparent."

* Outfitting the TRC

The first floor of the TRC features a 110-seat computing center; a 20,000-square-foot library; and a 250-seat auditorium for teleconferencing or live presentations and lectures distributed via cable television, CCTV or microwave uplink.

A Panasonic WV-D5100 digital camera system with remote control enables a technician at the master control console to capture live events for redistribution via cable, broadcast or microwave for satellite uplinks. The master control console can also take the feed from a Ramsa WR-8112 audio console, which regulates the audio levels for a given event.

In addition, the first floor has a 40' x 50' TV studio equipped with four Panasonic WV-F700 3-CCD digital signal processing, color video cameras--three on studio pedestals and one in a dockable configuration for Electronic News Gathering by mobile camerapersons. …

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