By Tim Newton
ON A WARM, muggy morning in
June, the Ball Corporation Room in Krannert Center is
busy with activity. Prof. Charlene Sullivan, finance,
is teaching Advanced Corporate Finance to MSIA students,
who are offering their comments about a case involving
Eli Lilly stock.
In the back of the classroom,
a large TV shows another group of students. They, too,
are participating in the class, raising their hands when
they would like to contribute. These students, though,
are sitting in a classroom in Hannover, Germany, part
of the German International Graduate School of Management
and Administration (GISMA) program.
The real-time connection between
the students in West Lafayette and Germany is possible
because of a specially equipped classroom. The Krannert
School spent about $175,000, including $145,000 on hardware
and software, to create the unique distance-learning
Chas DeLa, assistant director
for information technology for Krannert Executive Education
Programs, has spearheaded the distance education classroom
effort for more than a year. The room allows for the
integration of three cameras (two aimed at the local
students and one at the instructor), a videoconferencing
view of the remote classroom, a desktop computer for
instructors, a laptop for instructors, output from VCRs,
CDs, or DVDs, 29 student microphones, and as many as
five instructor microphones.
"During the last six
months, Krannert instructors have made many comments
about what they would like to see in a videoconferencing
classroom," DeLa says. "We believe we have created a
classroom where we can manage a class-based video-conference
such that it maximizes the learning experience for the
distant student, as well as for students who are here
in the room, and for the instructor.
"Sullivan says she has
seen advantages to teaching the course on two continents
"It's certainly an efficient
way to serve the needs of our students, especially those
in Germany, who otherwise would not have received this
course," she says. "I also think new technology causes
us to rethink what we've been doing in the classroom.
It tightens up some bad habits we may have picked up
during our normal modes of teaching.
"As she stands in front
of her class, Sullivan has a computer monitor and document
camera to her left. A touchpad in front of her allows
her to control her teaching environment, while a small
screen to her right shows her what is being transmitted
to the classroom in Germany.
In an adjoining control room,
multimedia specialist Hansel Monroy plays the role of
a television director. With 11 monitors and several switchers
at his disposal, he can help Sullivan maximize the technical
capabilities of the classroom. As Sullivan speaks about
the market rate of a bond, Monroy uses the "picture in
a picture" feature to show her face superimposed in a
chart filled with numbers. As students press buttons
to activate their microphones in West Lafayette, Monroy
helps the camera pan and zoom to close in on the individual
speakers. He also records a videotape of the class, which
will be made available later in the day on the Internet
and also will be shipped to Germany.
There is still no substitute
for a live classroom setting. Even with this highly sophisticated
setup, face-to-face interaction is required. Sullivan
has already been in Germany this module to provide hands-on
instruction for the GISMA students.
Today, though, television
screens connect about 50 students as they discuss the
details of the Lilly case. "The technology we added does
as much as possible to put the distant students in the
room with their instructor, and at the same time puts
the local students and instructor in the distant room," DeLa
says. "Virtually speaking, of course."
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