West Virginia University School of Nursing Makes the Move to Web-Based Learning

Article excerpt

West Virginia University School of Nursing (www.hsc.wvu.edu/son), part of the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University (WVU), offers cutting-edge educational programs for students seeking bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in nursing. Through its main campus in Morgantown and its division in Charleston, the school serves about 380 nursing students each semester.

The challenges facing the WVU School of Nursing are not unlike those experienced by nursing programs at other universities throughout the United States. Primarily, there are two issues at work: First is the well-publicized nursing shortage and the subsequent need to attract people to the profession. But the lesser known crisis is the current shortage of nurse educators. In fact, many nursing schools report long waiting lists of qualified applicants. However, without enough professors to teach these students, the universities must limit the number of students they accept into their programs. WVU School of Nursing's rural setting further intensifies these problems.

Indeed, as a school within the largest University in a mostly rural state, WVU School of Nursing has a long history of providing some form of distance education as an attractive alternative to professionals seeking an advanced nursing degree, but for whom attending a traditional campus-based program is prohibitive. Most recently, the school had a grant to use a videoconferencing service. While professors liked the two-way audio and video communication capabilities of videoconferencing, it wasn't entirely convenient for students. For one thing, it required them to go to one of six locations in the state to participate. Second, because it was live, it didn't offer the convenience of on-demand Web-based education often required by today's busy professionals. In addition, at $15,000 per semester for each course, it was fairly expensive. With that grant about to expire, officials went looking for a more cost-effective solution with broader access.

Hassle-Free Distance Education

Officials at the School of Nursing believed the next logical step for expanding their program was to find a solution that would allow them to make their courses available via the Internet. A team of evaluators determined the new online learning solution must:

* Eliminate the need for costly and time-consuming postproduction;

* Provide high-quality video streams and graphics, including detailed medical imagery for the online students;

* Not require major investments in additional infrastructure or service fees; and

* Not create any additional work for the professors teaching the courses.

After evaluating the marketplace, the research team found only one system that met all four requirements: Mediasite Live. The real-time, rich media Web presentation system from Sonic Foundry contains all the hardware and software needed to automate the capture and delivery of instructor-led multimedia lectures.

In fact, in a pilot project during the spring and summer semesters, we noticed the students were actually more engaged and more willing to ask questions with Mediasite Live's interactive Q&A feature than they were with the videoconferencing system. The reason, according to students, is because they were more comfortable quickly typing a question than they were talking into a camera.

In addition, unlike competing systems that require professors to submit slides ahead of time for complex authoring and encoding, Mediasite Live captures and streams on the fly. …

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