DELT keeping Memorial fresh
by Kristine Hamlyn
Simulation, mobile learning, podcasting, social computing and learning object repositories are the latest areas where DELT is focusing its attention. (Photo by Chris Hammond)
In today’s constantly evolving world, the use of the Internet, MP3 players, cellphones, PDAs and gaming technologies for learning and professional development purposes is sometimes taken for granted. But Ann Marie Vaughan, director of Memorial’s Distance Education and Learning Technologies (DELT), said it has become critically important that institutions of higher learning keep up with the latest in these emerging technologies in order to remain competitive.
“Through ongoing investment in skills and technology DELT is keeping Memorial on the cutting edge of learning technology,” she said.
Throughout DELT’s almost 40 year history, stakeholder fulfillment, technological leadership and innovation have been top priorities. In fact, DELT pioneered some of the nation’s and the university’s firsts: the use of television for learning (1969), the introduction of teleconferencing and the development of the telemedicine center (1977), the first course using e-mail (1988) and the first Internet based course (1994).
“In order to preserve Memorial’s leadership position, DELT continues to make strategic capital investments investments that benefit not only distance education students, but on-campus learners, faculty and, in some cases, corporate entities looking for expertise in a specific technology related area,” said Ms. Vaughan.
In 2001 DELT made a significant investment in WebCT, a highly sophisticated learning management system with a complete suite of tools for course delivery and management. Using WebCT instructors facilitate collaborative learning and personalize content based on students’ unique needs. Although originally an investment for distance education learners, the adoption rate of WebCT on-campus has skyrocketed over the last few years. On the St. John’s campus alone, the number of WebCT seats has risen from a mere 66 in 2002 to a whopping 14,091 in 2006.
In the 2004-05 fiscal year, DELT invested in Elluminate Live! (E-live) to replace teleconferencing technology. Operating seamlessly with WebCT, E-live software provides voice over internet protocol (VOIP), offering students both real-time, classroom-like interaction with the faculty member and classmates and the ability to review recorded lectures at a later date. E-live software is already showing on-campus applications and is beginning to grow in popularity.
While DELT has been strategically investing in e-learning for years, Ms. Vaughan pointed out it hasn’t all been for web based delivery. “We are also making considerable investments in digital skills and technologies that support e-learning using full media capacity video, animation, simulation and gaming. And they all support our overall strategy of being a globally competitive e-learning organization.”
Classroom infrastructure, which falls under the DELT domain as well, is also seeing significant
investment. Through a combination of DELT’s skilled technical staff and provincial funding, each year more web-enabled, multi-media classrooms are added. And DELT’s new PolyCom Video Conferencing technology allows up to seven sites to be connected at the same time for multi-site instruction.
Simulation, mobile learning, podcasting, social computing and learning object repositories are the latest areas where DELT is focusing its attention.
“We are keeping up with where the demand is and where the technology is going. The worst thing we can do is sit back and not invest in new technologies. We’re here to provide distance education opportunities for the university and the province and to lead in learning technologies.”