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Audio Visual Centres in the 21st century
4 Interactive Lectures.
4.1 Technologies are already available that can auto track a students progress and fully interactive lectures will become the norm. Based on this technology I envisage examinations using this to advantage. Some Medical institutions have already invested in this equipment and clearly demonstrates that there is already a move to stimulate learning and automate examinations. In addition results will be held in its database so that accreditation will be a much simplified process. Students understanding will be constantly monitored and weak areas can be noted more readily.
4.2 Of course all of these teaching innovations will require a new methodology to support the technology. It will require a change of direction in terms of academic planning and lectures will need to be carefully structured to maximise the benefits that interactive systems bring to teaching. A significant amount of academic time will have to be invested initially but the gains in real terms will be tremendous. The technology uses infra-red transmission for microphone sound and data but can be hard wired if necessary. In addition students may answer multiple choice questions via the hand set which can be used anywhere, even at home the results being downloaded into the computer the next day for analysis and marking automatically. A strict security regime would be a prerequisite and would need to be addressed by the institution before committing to such a system.
4.3 We must plan for the new millennium and develop support services as never before. To date institutions have been lead by the `old school' but as new academic staff with IT skills become established in senior posts, change is inevitable . We are already seeing these shifts in emphasis and academic staff will quite rightly expect increased support . Likewise fee paying students will demand better services and will shun colleges that fall short of expectations.
4.4 The new units will have to be proactive, and continually develop the service in response to demand. More importantly spotting trends and developing technologies before they are required are a prerequisite. It will often be years before it is practical to implement some ideas but it must be stressed that a long term planning strategy is a key element to the success of the new emerging support services. A strategy that dovetails precisely with the institution's information strategy and mission statement are essential in establishing good practice.
4.5 That is not to say that one has to have a plan cast in stone or even have it fully documented but thoughts and notes are just as valuable and a vision of what can be achieved is always useful to have to hand however outrageous they may seem at the time. These views may not always become a reality in exactly the way envisaged but elements can trigger the creative mind and develop thoughts that stimulate ideas as technology advances.
4.6 Who would have thought even ten years ago that we would have been so reliant on self access printers, slide writers hanging on networks and computers that could manipulate images so rapidly. Interactive live video relayed lectures are being considered from laboratories to classrooms for large practical sessions and will be in place next academic year.
4.7 Technology can also help when students numbers decline which I am confident will happen as the economy improves and jobs are more plentiful. This combined with increasing costs to the student is going to have a significant effect on HE income.
"We are already seeing applications down by 6% or 21,000 students. This is the first time numbers have fallen at this stage since 1994",(source UCAS).
4.8 What should we do to prepare for such an eventuality. I believe we should be looking towards Interactive Distance Learning that may bridge the gap and this is particularly easy where local commercial cable networks are fully activated. We should actively explore these avenues as either a fall back position or to augment existing student business.
4.9 It is also envisaged that the new communication centres will have to actively market their production in support of the internal services.
4.10 This will include marketing internally produced multimedia and video programmes. These would be specially commissioned works for internal consumption but could be equally tailored for sale to other institutions or to individuals wishing to take a specific course. Support materials would be required for the latter and may not be cost effective for individual students.
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