Spotlight: New Technology Employed at Continuing Education Center

January 05, 2010

Spotlight: New Technology Employed at Continuing Education CenterAdult students in an evening class at Saint Leo University's small Key West continuing education location benefitted from a new Internet-based teaching delivery system called DimDim. The technology uses web cameras to allow both the teacher and all the students to see each other and to interact in real time from their individual homes. The convenience can provide another option to be considered among the mix of delivery methods that have been in place at Key West, which has a small population of students and an even smaller pool of available college-level teachers. Saint Leo has often offered classes in Key West using video teleconferencing, where a teacher in one classroom, often in Virginia, conducts a session with students gathered in a classroom in front of one Web camera in Key West.

By contrast, the DimDim Internet-based platform allows everyone, teachers and students, to communicate from individual desktops or laptops in their own homes. The technology was recently used successfully by Bud Hayes, an SLU faculty member and director of the Fort Lee and Fort Eustis centers in Virginia, to teach a 100-level global issues course to 17 students.

Hayes would lecture from his computer at home and students attended from their homes, participating in public chats, and, as required, making individual presentations to the rest of the class. One class participant was able to make her evening class presentation even though she was on a business trip that particular week and had to "attend" from a hotel room via a computer.

In another instance, a student-couple wanted to stay close to home because they were expecting their first child, and the wife was very close to her due date during the eight-week semester. She made it through seven weeks before the baby arrived. On the last night of class, the couple introduced their baby daughter to the other class members via web cam.

"I tried to use as much technology as I could without overwhelming the students," Hayes said, adding, "by using online resources, students could cover much more material outside of class and that left class time for reinforcing concepts, and exchanging new ideas."