P O W E L L, W y o. - Remember that really, really hard high school chemistry class where the formulas made sense while the teacher was explaining them, but once you left the classroom, it all turned to Greek?
Starting in January, Northwest College students won't panic when they lose a concept after walking out of a classroom - not if they walked out of a vodcasting classroom that is.
Northwest now has the latest vodcasting technology that lets students access lectures and other materials via the college's new streaming server. When students click on a video, they see the lecture and all the related materials just like they did when they were in class because it's all recorded in a state-of-the-art audio/video recording room. Besides being able to watch and listen to vodcasts on their computers, they can also download this programming to a video iPod or similar MP3 player which allows for even more portability to the student.
"The advantages to students are several," according to Scott Horton, the college's instructional technology coordinator. "For example, if the student has missed class due to being on a college trip (for an example our Forensics Team where they're traveling a lot), they can continue watching classes while they're even on their trip or when they come back. Same would be true with our sports teams.
"Where I see it actually getting used more is for what I like to call course reinforcement. For example, if I go into a class that is introducing something that is really quite difficult to grasp or it's a difficult concept and the course is being vodcasted, I can always go back and watch that again and again and again on my computer once it's put into our video library. That's the biggest advantages I see for students, although there's probably even more."
Horton said vodcasting can also be a valuable tool to improve online classes. He cites his own online class as a way the technology can help his students learn.
"I'm teaching an online course in beginning digital photography and if I'm talking about, for an example, how shutter speeds and F-stops relate to each other, trying to cover that in text form can be somewhat confusing to a beginning photographer. If I can actually show this within a classroom environment as if the student was sitting in the classroom, this would allow them to watch this portion in a video sense where I can go into our vodcasting classroom and record this particular lecture and make it a portion of my online class."
Students are the big winners when technology can be used across the curriculum to enhance learning, and Northwest College students are the lucky winners in this region, according to Horton. When asked if vodcasting is available at other colleges or universities in the area, he said, "Not in the state of Wyoming or anywhere within our immediate region that I'm aware of. At Central Wyoming College, they do podcasting, but podcasting is audio only and has been very successful for them. But no other community college is doing this, and I don't believe even the University of Wyoming is doing anything similar to this."
One of the reasons vodcasting technology is so rare is the price tag. Without a successful grant award of Title III money, Northwest wouldn't have been able to afford it. However, Title III money alone couldn't cover the cost. According to Horton, when Dana Young and Sher Hruska, the college's vice presidents for student and academic affairs, saw the potential for student learning, they were determined to make it available for Northwest students and realigned budgets accordingly.
NWC faculty were introduced to the vodcasting concept during a December presentation. While it will take a while for them to learn to use the technology and the best ways to fit it into their teaching style, some are already planning their spring courses around vodcasting opportunities.
Horton predicted the courses where students would first be introduced to vodcasting. "I'm sure it will be social science courses, some English courses, definitely Nursing. I could see our Music faculty using it, and especially Math courses. One of the biggest things I hear as the administrator to all our online classes is that students find math to be the most difficult course to take online because it's difficult to grasp the context through text-driven courses only, which is what online is."
NWC students may be watching vodcasts as early as mid-January - the first day of spring semester classes is Monday, Jan. 14.