SUU Significantly Expands Distance Education
November 03, 2005
Written by Elizabeth Bowler, Communication major from Washington, UT
Southern Utah University is reaching further and wider now as its Distance Education program in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies just integrated a new, advanced web conferencing software.
Now, educational opportunities are even more accessible for more under-served rural populations, with SUU’s recent integration of the Macromedia Breeze program by Macromedia, Inc. One of the services already launched via this software is the distribution of the SUU master in education degree program, online.
“Breeze will carry us across state borders,” Ellis exclaims. In 2004, SUU began its integration of Breeze Live (now called Breeze Meeting) and Breeze Presentation (now called Breeze Presenter) components into the campus learning technology infrastructure.
“Video costs have soared, which was part of our rationale for
switching to Breeze,” Ean J. Harker, instructional designer at the SCPS Instructional Media Integration Centre, states. The Centre supports educators in the development of online courses.
Unlike the closed-circuit broadcast TV system needed to distribute EdNet courses, the conferencing capabilities that are part of the Breeze platform use the Internet for distribution. This means more instructors and students can participate in distance learning through this simpler broadcast technology. Now, users can use their own computers to participate in Breeze learning experiences, wherever and whenever they have access to the Web. Since 98 percent of all computers connected to the Internet already have the Macromedia Flash Player installed, users do not have to purchase additional software to access the learning experiences being distributed via Breeze.
In addition to bridging the education gap in neighboring communities, SUU is responding to opportunities that bridge the diversity gap, too. Preparing students for life in the expanding global economy can be challenging to both rural institutions of higher education and the individuals within rural communities.
“Southern Utah desperately needs exposure to outside groups,” Ellis says, and vice versa.
Faculty members in SUU’s partner schools in Spain, Germany and Switzerland are currently training on Breeze software to implement joint broadcasting relationships. Also, conversations are underway with an institute of technology in Mexico to develop a blended-learning Spanish course for SUU students that will facilitate native Spanish-speaking professors to provide some of the conversational, online content.
SUU is building collaboration components into several of its blended and online learning programs. Taking advantage of the multiple ways in which users can interact in Breeze Meeting, students and faculty from various parts of the world can pool their knowledge and share unique perspectives in a real-time, virtual environment that includes integrated audio conferencing, video conferencing, file sharing, white-boarding, and chatting, just to name a few. A class session can be recorded and archived at the instructor’s request and played back whenever a participant chooses to review it. The Breeze Presenter module allows new users to add audio narrations, animation features and Flash animations to Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, easily producing multimedia programs that can be saved and exchanged as Flash files.
Through its more than 100-year history, Southern Utah University has evolved from a teacher training school into its current role as a comprehensive, regional university to 6,000 students from across the globe. It serves the southern region of Utah and contiguous counties in surrounding states with undergraduate and graduate programs in six colleges. People of the region look to the University for outreach services, culture, economic and business development, higher learning, regional history, public affairs, major academic specialties, and significant entertainment and recreation. Accentuated by the notable, economic value of its services, SUU's hallmark is its quality staff, faculty and academics.
Carl Ellis, Dean of the School of Continuing and P