In the past, options for non-traditional students were few and often undesirable. Instead of receiving an education from an accredited institution, people who could not afford to relocate would have to settle for a local, less esteemed school with far fewer resources and programs. Recent educational technological advancements, however, have provided non-traditional students with opportunities to receive an exemplary education from the convenience of their homes.
Nestled in the state's rural plains, Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU) had been struggling with providing educational resources to potential students who were having trouble making it to campus each day. The university serviced many students who either lived too far away to reasonably travel to the school or could not leave their children or jobs for the time needed to attend classes. Administrators had tried to implement solutions to address this quandary, setting up offsite locations where students could watch videos of recorded lectures, but that option was not ideal. Rural students still needed to travel to these sites and the material was recorded in advance, preventing any interaction. With the recent launch of an expansive webcasting program, the university may have found a solution that effectively addresses this problem.
Connecting to remote students
Campus Technology reported that ENMU has deployed an online course initiative with software called Mediasite. Using recording devices set up in five of the university's classrooms, professors can transmit a lecture or classroom discussion across the internet. Students who could not previously attend classes on campus can now sit in on these sessions over Mediasite's network. Since, the webcasts elapse in real time, pupils who are remotely accessing the lessons can interact with those inside the classroom, asking the professor questions and participating in classroom discussions.
"Our college is thrilled about the way Mediasite allows us to reach more and more distance students without having to give up the traditional feel of the classroom," Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Mary Fanelli Ayala said in a statement.
The program has seen encouraging results, advancing from its pilot stage to full-scale deployment in less than 12 months. More than two-thirds of ENMU's approximately 6,000 students attended one Mediasite course during the fall 2012 semester. In addition, more than 200 pupils enrolled in an entirely online curriculum over that time period.
Widening the definition of a classroom
The webcasting technology has also opened up other options for educational innovation at the university. Providing pre-recorded lectures to students over the Mediasite network, professors can implement a flipped classroom dynamic. Instead of attending a lecture in real time, students watch a pre-recorded video then use sessions for classroom discussion and interaction. The program has also helped the university reach out to high school students who are considering attending class there. New Mexico's Dual Enrollment initiative encourages high schoolers to attend college classes for both high school and college credit. These students can attend online courses and receive the same credit, giving their college career an early jump start.
Eastern New Mexico University's webcasting initiative has allowed professors to reach a wider audience and provide a quality education to those who may have previously felt it was beyond their reach. With new advancements in technology, the methods for offering lessons are increasing and the old classroom model is quickly becoming just another option and not the sole solution.
Are hybrid or purely online courses viable alternatives to the traditional classroom experience? What other methods could universities be using to provide lessons to remote students? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!