OU College of Nursing Expands `Distance' Teaching
Davis, KirLee, THE JOURNAL RECORD
The University of Oklahoma College of Nursing is expanding its teaching methods to allow students to earn college credit by satellite and over the Internet. This semester the college offers 26 "distance" courses.
The nursing college's two main campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa continue to offer courses taught the old-fashioned way: students sit in a classroom, listen to lectures and interact with professors and each other. But, with the help of advanced electronic technology called H.323 -- the same mode used for Internet data traffic -- students in Lawton, Woodward, Claremore and Ada are able to attend and participate in classes via real-time interactive video.
At each of the six locations, classrooms have been outfitted with cameras, monitors and microphones to facilitate interaction. The Oklahoma City campus has three such rooms that can accommodate 100, 25 and 15 students, respectively. A fourth classroom with a capacity for 40 students will be ready this summer.
The Internet-based distance communication is run off desktop computers containing programs typically found on computers everywhere, such as Microsoft Word and Microsoft Explorer. "We can share any kind of document that you can get on your personal computer regardless of what program generates them," said Gary Loving, associate professor and division director for acute care nursing.
Loving noted that working adults comprise a large part of the student population at the OU College of Nursing. Many are registered nurses and licensed practical nurses. Through the college's Career Mobility Program, which includes distance education courses, these nurses may earn advanced standing credit to complete bachelor of science degrees. Others pursue master's degrees in administration/ management, education, clinical nurse specialist and nurse practitioner through the distance-learning program.
The college has been offering "point-to-point" electronic distance learning -- transmissions between two sites -- since the early 1990s. With the technology upgrade to H.323 last fall, Loving said students at all six locations may participate. The video is delivered over the Internet using a multipoint conferencing unit through OneNet, an infrastructure for high-speed data transmission among state agencies and institutions, which was established by the Oklahoma Legislature. Loving said the OU Health Sciences Center, which includes the College of Nursing, is a hub site for OneNet.
The college also uses the technology to connect faculty and students outside the classroom environment. "We have video office hours where a student and an instructor schedule time one-on-one using video," Loving said.
As an adviser for graduate students at the Woodward outreach site, he has found that the video option comes in mighty handy. "I've gone to Woodward many times, but when I have scheduling conflicts, I use the video. It works just fine. There are advantages to face-to-face communication, but video is the next best thing."
Internet technology at the nursing college is more than just a method of linking students with instructors in and out of the classroom. With the extensive use of online research and communication techniques, it also reduces actual classroom time. For example, an undergraduate course called "Introduction to Philosophy and Logic of Nursing" meets only twice during the semester, once for the course introduction and once for students to present their class projects.
"The rest of the time," Loving explained, "students are finding Web sites to conduct online research and preparing written assignments based on that information, which are then e-mailed to the instructor."
From a recruiting standpoint, distance education is a valuable tool. While there is still a place for traditional classroom time and hands-on clinical applications, Loving said the demand for "anyplace, anytime learning experiences" is growing. …