CRESTVIEW — A first-year pharmacy student responded to Professor Jamal Brown's questions during an Introduction to Principles of Drug Action class at Florida A&M University's pharmacy school.
Student-teacher interaction has been common since the days of Socrates. However, the difference here was that Wileta Luckett sat in a downtown classroom while Brown was in a lecture hall more than 150 miles away at FAMU's main Tallahassee campus.
Using cameras and microphones in both facilities, Crestview students watch faculty lectures, in real-time, on high-definition television. They ask questions and interact with professors and their peers in the Tallahassee classroom. With monitors, the professors see and can address Crestview students and answer their questions.
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A "smart board" adjacent to the monitor in the Crestview classrooms projects the same materials that Tallahassee students are seeing.
As Luckett and her classmates prepared to take a quiz Wednesday morning, they sat quietly with their test papers facedown on their desks and waited as Brown got the Tallahassee students settled down.
Finally, Brown looked into the camera and, in mock frustration, said, "Crestview, why can't they be like y'all?"
TelePresence in Crestview
Such live interaction uses Cisco Systems’ TelePresence, an audio-video "bridge" between the two campuses. Eight classrooms each in both campuses have the technology.
"FAMU faced pressure from the college accreditation board to show that its Crestview students would not be at a disadvantage while learning off-site from the College of Pharmacy’s main campus in Tallahassee," Cisco stated in a case study of the local system.
Before adopting the system at its Crestview location, school technology staffers evaluated similar technology used by pharmacy schools at Auburn University, the University of Georgia and Wingate University in North Carolina.
When the college accreditation board evaluated Crestview’s campus, it found that students performed better academically than peers who attend the classes in person.
"The university partially attributes this finding to the Crestview students’ quick adoption of the technology for the learning process, making the students more likely to go back online to consult past lectures and course materials to better obtain knowledge," the case study stated.
Making the program possible
In addition to beaming teachers and students to and from Crestview, lectures are recorded and archived at the local FAMU site, allowing students to review material or see a missed lecture.
Surveys of students and faculty found overall acceptance of the system, FAMU's senior computer support specialist Jason Mobley said.
"The technology doesn't get in the way of the professor," Mobley said. "All he has to do is turn on his microphone and teach."
Dr. Margareth Larose-Pierre, the Crestview campus’ associate dean, said the technology makes the Crestview pharmacy program possible, as budget restrictions bar hiring additional faculty to staff the satellite campus.
"Without the technology, we wouldn't be able to offer the program," Larose-Pierre said.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.