First Students Begin to Use Interactive Education Software at Providence College
Working as an emergency social worker in a remote First Nations community on the shore of Hudson Bay, Cameron Donaldson is more than 2,000 km away from Providence College and Seminary in Otterburne, MB.
But that hasn’t stopped him from attending classes there.
Since the beginning of Sept., Donaldson, 21, has been interacting with his Career Youth Ministry class through eProv – western Canada’s first fully-interactive interactive, two-way videoconference distance education classroom experience offered at Providence.
While living in Waskaganish, QC, Donaldson said the best part about eProv is that it enables him to continue with his ministry and progress with his education at the same time.
“I feel glad that this technology has finally been applied to a classroom and makes interaction-based classes available to me,” said Donaldson.
Built on the Nefsis technology platform, eProv is a high-definition, two-way videoconference that enables students with a computer and an Internet connection to participate in a class from anywhere in the world.
Using one of two Hub rooms in the college, professors and students at Providence are joined with eProv students in one room on one screen. eProv students can see and hear what is going on in the classroom, as well as speak to the class. Other visuals, such as Powerpoint, are also visible.
Although many post-secondary institutions are still pursuing something similar to eProv, Providence is the first in Western Canada to have it ready for 2010.
Currently, eProv has students enrolled from across Canada—from British Columbia to Quebec and from Canada’s North.
Bruce Duggan, Associate Professor of Management, was one of the main pioneers for eProv. He said he started thinking of interactive learning through videoconferencing after several discussions with colleagues, but that conversation was three years ago.
Now with an increase in demand for interactive technology and thanks to a $557,000 grant from the Canadian government through the Knowledge Infrastructure Program, and support from the Buller Foundation, Providence is setting the pace for interactive distance education.
“Getting something new off the ground is always hard, but it’s also a lot of fun,” said Duggan of eProv. “It’s turned out to be more cutting edge than I thought.”
Long-term, eProv has the chance to change what Providence can offer as it explores ways of reaching students they’ve never thought possible.
“We’re spending a lot of time this year ramping up, showing off what this can do, and building the market,” said Duggan. “It’s not the only mode of distance education we’re using, but we think it will fulfill an important niche.”
As a professor himself, Duggan believes eProv also has the potential to create rich conversations with people from all over the world with a variety of experience.
“When I think of Cameron, there are hundreds of people in the same situation all other the north,” said Duggan. “Instead of coming out to school, they can learn while they’re there. eProv enables us to offer the education experience in new way, to make distance education personal. It’s the way distance education was always meant to be.”
Gus Konkel, president of Providence College and Seminary, knows technology has radically altered the delivery options of post-secondary education, and said eProv has given Providence a leading edge in program delivery.
“The distinction of eProv is the availability of a complete classroom experience from their own computer—right from their home or office—so there is no need to commute to another classroom. Classroom participation always increases a learning experience. Providence can now offer Christian university education as a unique opportunity for students,” said Konkel.
“The mission of Providence is to educate, to teach people to grow in character and knowledge. The technology of eProv is a way of reducing our footprint and extending our reach. Students can be in the class without the cost of commuting, and can provide education to more students. It is a way to extend the mission of the institution.”
Each student enrolled in eProv is provided with the Nefsis software, which they install on their computer. In addition to the classroom experience, each eProv student is partnered up with a student at Providence.
If students are working together on a group project, they can meet outside of class time using eProv. They can share their project materials and work on them all at the same time, without having to send e-mails back and forth.
Eight eProv classes were offered in the fall semester, and at least five more will be offered in the winter starting in January.
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