Distance learning gets a bit closer

The University is now taking strides to increase accessibility and convenience by implementing new media in its distance learning programs. Since 1995 FAMU has been using Internet-based learning programs like Blackboard and Course Compass to facilitate learning outside of the classroom. With the addition of informational and technological media, the Information Technology Department has hopes of alleviating the educational strain.

The new media allows for two-way online communication between professors and students and additional distance learning courses.

Joseph Roache, interim assistant vice president of the department for Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, said he likes developing new ways to help the educational process by using new technology.

“These media should decrease retention rates, allow for flexible schedules and allow the student to study the material more than once,” Roache said.

Today it has accumulated nearly 8,000 student users that take part in 1,014 active courses. But new software, like Elluminate and Element K are beginning to increase its number of users too.

Elluminate, a synchronous video desktop conferencing software, is now available to FAMU students. Using Elluminate, students can collaborate, listen and view online material with their professors.

“This software allows for faculty to use their voice with video connection, to develop an online lecture that creates two-way communication between professor and student,” Roache said. “It also allows for an audience to view the same online page as the speaker from a different location.”

Public relations students from the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication were recently among the first to use Elluminate, during a Web conference focused on social media.

Journalism professor, Gina L. Kinchlow, said she would like to add Elluminate to her teaching style, and she believes it will enhance the educational process.

“I suspect some students will learn more and retain better if taught with new media,” Kinchlow said.

Kinchlow also said she wants to become more technologically savvy and continue to emphasize the importance of new media to her public relations students.

“Public relations students must learn new media, it is essential,” she said.

Ramsay McCoy, 20, a junior public relations student from Houston, attended the conference and said she enjoyed FAMU’s efforts to provide cutting edge technology and is ready to take it into the workforce.

“It was pretty cool,” McCoy said. “FAMU students are (being) exposed to technology ahead of time, so when we start working for the conglomerates we would have already been comfortable with it.”

The School of Business and Industry has also incorporated these new media in its curriculum.

Al Loblack, 23, a senior business economics student from Dominica, said he liked the realness of the software.

“It was great,” Loblack said. “It felt like the speaker was present right before me, like they were here.”

Distance learning, or online courses, have been available in moderate amounts, but Roache said he hopes to have increased the amount and variety of courses by next semester.

“Hopefully by next semester students can take online courses that will work around their work schedules, daily lives and generate the expected graduation date.”

FAMU professors are a part of the technology era at the university also. Media such as Element K offers online training to faculty.

Through Element K, faculty can train themselves for Microsoft programs, Word and Excel.

Roache attends conferences and stays updated on new technologies to make FAMU’s educational process more efficient.