One community college science class is in session simultaneously in two rooms ten miles apart. Through distance learning technology, a teacher at one location lectures both classes. Students in both rooms can see, talk and interact with one another as if they were in the same hall.
As one student speaks, his image is projected on oversized screens in each classroom. A second student, responding to the first, is heard and seen by everyone. The camera pans across the room and slows to focus on the teacher as she directs the class, then all eyes are on the high-resolution display as it fills with video, text and still images that illuminate the points of her science lecture.
This futuristic scene is becoming reality as part of an innovative plan recently initiated by Florida Community College at Jacksonville (FCCJ). Located in northeast Florida, FCCJ serves more than 90,000 students in Duval and Nassau counties at four physical campuses and four college centers. According to the institution, one out of every six area residents has taken a class at FCCJ and, every year, thousands of students cross the college's many campuses to attend class as they work toward their degrees.
To accommodate both the volume and geographic diversity of the student body, FCCJ administrators have turned to technology to enhance learning opportunities and provide cost-effective educational programs.
Three years ago, the college hired Jack Chambers as planning and information resource center manager, with the goal of bringing technology into the classroom. "My job is to help integrate technology into the instructional and learning process," says Chambers. "At FCCJ, we want to make learning a dynamic, interactive experience for both our teachers and our students."
After researching classroom technology pilot programs at other educational institutions, Chambers developed a unique plan that called for integrating multimedia into FCCJ classrooms. Multimedia computer software selected for use in these advanced classrooms included Macromedia Director, Macromedia Action!, Harvard Graphics, Allen Communications' QUEST and the University of Delaware's PODIUM. In addition, original multimedia software is being developed for future use.
Essential to realizing the full benefit of multimedia in a classroom setting was finding large-screen color monitors that could properly display the various media. In fact, this was one of Chambers' biggest challenges.
According to Tom Crowe, assistant director of purchasing for FCCJ, the requirements were demanding. …