A newly acquired video communication system is transforming education outreach at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, with further potential for administrative uses at the system level.
Cisco's TelePresence system employs NLR (National Lambda Rail) fiber lines to connect high-definition video cameras and monitors at far-flung locations. UCCS now offers nursing and robotics courses to students in Lamar and LaJunta. Video and audio quality is high, with no detectable transmission delay.
"Classroom extension is the term we use, rather than distance education," said Jerry Wilson, chief technology officer for UCCS. Because instructors and students in one location can interact in real time with students at another location, the geographic distance becomes an afterthought. "After a few minutes, you forget you're seeing and hearing someone on a video screen. It's as if they're in the same room."
Wilson and UCCS Chancellor Pam Shockley-Zalabak provided a demonstration of the system for members of the Board of Regents and other CU administrators during the board's meeting on the UCCS campus Nov. 19. Earlier this fall, administrators from the President's Office received a demonstration at Cisco's Tech Center offices; 1800 Grant St. also recently became a home to one of the TelePresence units.
At the Colorado Springs demonstration, University of Colorado Denver Chancellor Jerry Wartgow told regents how the system could eventually emulate face-to-face meetings with UC Denver employees on the downtown campus and the Anschutz Medical Campus. Shockley-Zalabak also noted the potential reduction of travel time and costs for her and other administrators who travel from Colorado Springs to system administration offices in Denver.
Wartgow also sees applications for the technology with current online classes offered throughout the university.
"The potential is unlimited for online education," he said.
While TelePresence units aimed at corporations now cost several thousand dollars, Cisco representatives say a system aimed at consumers for home use is on the way; it will be priced near $1,000 and can connect to a home's HDTV. With wider availability, the classroom extension can reach from college campuses into high schools in remote areas without easy access to exposure to higher education, Shockley-Zalabak said.