CISCO, UCCS partnership shared with global audience

January 21, 2011
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After a semester-long experiment, UCCS and computer giant Cisco shared a new way of delivering education before a world-wide audience Wednesday morning.

During the fall semester, instructors from the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Science taught to students at Otero Junior College and Lamar Community College via Cisco Telepresence in addition to students on campus. In doing so, Bob Kressin and Sue Davis put UCCS in the record books. UCCS is the first university to use Telepresence to deliver for-credit college courses.

On Wednesday, Kressin, who taught ECE 1001 and Davis, who taught NURS 4580, joined Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak, Nancy Smith, dean, Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences,  top Cisco executives and representatives from Otero Junior College in a global press conference. They used the same high-definition television and digital voice technology used to teach courses to connect California, Denver, India, Colorado Springs and La Junta with media outlets from across the globe.

“I have to admit that when the dean first came up to me and said we wanted to use this technology and that it was somewhat experimental, I was pretty nervous about using it,” Kressin said. “My biggest concern was that it would interfere with the classroom experience and that students in La junta would not feel very connected. But really a lot of those fears were dispelled almost immediately.”

“As an instructor, every single time I look at these seats in my classroom I get very excited about the potential of each one of those engineering students to use technology and engineering to benefit humanity. It is personally very exciting then to push beyond our four walls and extend that reach and see that excitement propagate to rural communities like Otero Junior College.”

Davis demonstrated her course in electrocardiogram reading and patient care with the assistance of a student, Lea Fulmer, and a patient simulator nicknamed Carl. Fulmer holds an associate’s degree in nursing, works as a registered nurse and enrolled in Davis’ course in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in nursing.  She holds two jobs in La Junta.  Driving to Colorado Springs to take courses was not an option.

As Davis directed Fulmer in a medical procedure, she was able to monitor her actions as well as that of the patient.  In the course, Davis critiqued Fulmer’s actions, just as she did students in her campus classroom.

“I’ve never met Lea in person,” Davis said. “But thanks to Telepresence, I feel as though I know her.”

For the spring semester, Kressin will teach two courses. Davis will continue with one. Their pioneering efforts received praise from Shockley-Zalabak who sees Telepresence as a way to bridge gaps.

“We need to get more people and their families convinced that post-secondary education is still possible, no matter where a person happens to be located,” said Shockley-Zalabak.

She said distance education technologies will be imperative for environmental sustainability, ensuring access, and supplementing classroom instruction with simulations and interactive learning. Smith linked the new technology with efforts to improve nursing education and providing health care access to rural areas.

Wim Elfrink, chief globalization office and executive vice president for Cisco in charge of its Smart+Connected communities projects, said: “We see in this century technology will play the same role as highways, training and airports played in the previous century.”

He joined the conversation via Telepresence from his living room in Bangalore, India.

To see the press conference, visit http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/12114722

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