Video courses provide nontraditional education

By Charles Ratliff

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Problem solvers at the University of Arizona have discovered new ways to meet the growing demand of working adult students ready to pursue educational opportunities.

Videoservices, a component of KUAT Communications Group at the UA, is reversing the roles of college courses and transmitting classes to students at businesses in Tucson and down-linking to sites nationwide to meet the growing demand of off-campus students and to compete in a whole new marketplace.

"I think more and more there are nontraditional students who work and want to get a higher education," said Jack Parris, assistant general manager for KUAT's videoservices, "and I see this as a way for the university to deliver those kinds of courses to those students whether they be at the work site or whether they be at home."

"A lot of the students who are watching these courses are managers in plants like IBM, Burr-Brown, or Hughes," he said, "and they're using these courses to further their careers."

Parris said video courses, predominantly electrical and computer engineering classes, are marketed and developed through the UA Extended University. He said that once the UA Extended University identifies a need in the marketplace and receives permission from the professor to do the course on television, then videoservices produces and transmits the course to the customer sites.

He said videoservices produced 23 courses last semester for public or business consumption and are scheduled to produce 17 courses this semester.

"Videoservices is available to any business who is able to put together the equipment to downlink by satellite," said Marsha Ham, program development specialist for distance learning at the Extended University.

Ham said participating companies save time and money when employees take their classes at the company site instead of spending an extra two to three hours driving to campus and finding a parking space.

Student accountability, on the other hand, can become a long, drawn-out process, Ham said.

"Each student has to identify a proctor, an individual who will take responsibility, sign for tests, oversee exams and make sure the student has the right materials," she said.

Ham said a courier service will deliver tests and materials to students at Tucson sites as well as pick up homework and completed tests for grading.

"It's a constant logging in and logging out of material," she said. "There's checks and balances throughout the whole system."

Ham said she sees videoservices, or the Extended University equivalent called "videocampus," exploding in growth, especially with the different course outlets available, such as CD-ROM and the Internet.

"There are some limiting factors to that growth," Parris said, "whether the institutions are able to support this type of thing."

Joe Chitwood, production manager for videoservices, said trends in the electronic industry influence what courses sell in the business world.

"We'll try to find out what IBM, Burr-Brown, and Hughes need, then we'll come to the university," Chitwood said. "Now, if they don't find it here, then they'll go somewhere else."

Chitwood said one particular course that is seeing nationwide appeal is optical sciences.

"The optical sciences department we have here is one of the best in the country," he said.

Don Burgess, general manager for the KUAT Communications Group at the UA, said the introduction of new technologies provide simple access to university courses. He said this changes the old conception of schools as having walls around the campus.

"There are no longer those barriers, so now there's going to be competition for who's going to serve that student or customer out there," Burgess said.

"As the technology develops and is integrated into the on-campus courses, the whole idea of what is an on-campus course and what is an off-campus course almost begins to dissolve, because the only difference may end up being the pushing of one button and sending a signal," Burgess said.

"The walls confining the university to an exact location dissolve, not only around the campus, but around the state," Burgess said.

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