In the day of MOOCs and online courses, Newman University believes it’s important to not forget about another kind of delivery; a combination of live instruction with a technological twist. It’s Interactive Television (ITV), and though not new, the delivery method still proves to be valuable, and therefore worthy of attention.
Newman began using ITV as a delivery method in the late 1990s and now uses the system to connect students with instructors all across the southern portion of the state.
“Interactive Television allows instructors to connect classes together in several different geographical sites at the same time,” said Michael Austin, Ph.D., provost and vice president for Academic Affairs at Newman University. “It combines the convenience of online delivery with the community function of allowing students to come together to talk with each other and learn together.”
In 1997, Newman University in collaboration with the Diocese of Dodge City created the Interactive Network which is operated in western Kansas by Church in Partnership. The system, used for the Pastoral Ministry Formation Program, Catechist Formation, Creciendo en Cristo, and Diocesan meetings as well as coursework offered by Newman University, is now nearly two decades old and undergoing major technological enhancements.
“Basically every piece of equipment that was installed originally is out of date, out of support, and in dire need of replacement,” said Harry Sherbet, Newman University ITV coordinator. “The system will now be completely HD, which will provide a nice clear picture of both the presenter and any materials they may be using.”
Technicians from CableCom in Wichita began installing new equipment in the classroom at Hennessy Hall in Dodge City at the end of January. The upgrade will extend to eight of the 10 community sites used in the diocese. It will include replacing the 36-inch monitors with 47- and 50-inch high definition wide screen televisions. Ceiling microphones will replace the microphones that were originally placed on each classroom table. The final upgrades will be done in Wichita, which will also receive all new equipment by mid to late March 2014.
“The Wichita campus is where the bridge, techs, and support staff are located. All of the classes, no matter where they go or start, are passed through Wichita,” said Sherbet. “This allows us to digitally record classes for students that miss, and it allows us a degree of monitoring to act quickly should something happen or fail. Whether a class is just Dodge City to Liberal or Garden City to Labette, it runs through Wichita.”
On the southeastern part of Kansas, Cherokee and Parsons are the most affected by the upgrades, and right now Newman’s Elementary Education Students use the system the most.
The Elementary Education program broadcasts across the state and Guy Glidden, associate professor of Education and Southeast Kansas coordinator, knows the value of student interaction and the importance of live instruction in the classroom.
“The feedback from our current students tells us that ‘live’ instruction is preferred over ‘on-line’ instruction and our students consider ITV instruction to be a form of ‘live’ instruction,” Glidden said.
The technology upgrade to the sites in the Dodge City Diocese will cost approximately $200,000, a portion of which was funded by a grant from Catholic Extension Society. Newman University and the diocese will provide additional funding to the project.
The locations affected by the upgrades in western Kansas are classrooms at Hennessy Hall in Dodge City, as well as classrooms in parish facilities in Garden City, Great Bend, Liberal, Pratt, Ness City, Scott City, and Sharon. Two additional sites are located in Syracuse at the Hamilton County Library, and in Ulysses at Pioneer Communications. In southeast Kansas, Cherokee, Parsons, and Independence will receive the upgrades as well as part of a partnership with Labette Community College and Independence Community College.
Glidden added, “The ITV picture is very clear so that all in both settings can hear, speak, and be seen.”