November 1, 2002
Krannert School receives Indiana distance learning award
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. Purdue University's Krannert School of Management has won an Award for Excellence in Distance Education from the Indiana Distance Learning Association.
The award was presented Thursday (10/31) at the state distance learning association's annual conference at the Ritz Charles Hotel (12156 N. Meridian St.) in Carmel. The award recognizes the Krannert School's effective use of technology to make education available to students at remote sites.
Chas DeLa (pronounced de-LAH), the assistant director for information technology for Krannert Executive Education Programs, was in charge of designing and outfitting the school's distance learning classroom. The room, located in the Krannert Center, is used regularly to send real-time West Lafayette-based MBA classes to the German International School of Management and Administration (GISMA) in Hanover, Germany.
"At the Krannert School, we believe in presence in teaching," DeLa said. "Our goal was to outfit a distance learning classroom in which the professor and the students have as much of the same quality of presence as they have in a face-to-face class."
After the room had been used for GISMA classes, it was pressed into service in a tense situation.
Wilbur G. "Bill" Lewellen, Herman C. Krannert Distinguished Professor of Management and director of executive education programs, was scheduled to teach a one-week course in international finance in The Netherlands three days after the 9/11 terrorist bombings.
"We had 50 of our executive students who had already traveled from 10 different countries from the United States, South America, Asia and other parts of Europe to attend the session," Lewellen said. "When my flight was canceled, we needed a quick backup plan, and it appeared that our experience with distance learning technology would be key.
"I'm not fully convinced that the use of distance learning is always warranted. Although our videoconferencing system allowed me to see and hear all our students in the session, and vice versa, there's still no substitute for the spontaneity of in-class analysis and discussion."
DeLa reported, though, that Lewellen's students, who tuned in to his class from Europe, performed well on their exams.
As currently configured, the distance learning classroom has three video cameras (two aimed at the students and one at the professor), a videoconferencing view of the remote classroom, and desktop and laptop computers for the professor. The instructor has a computer monitor and document camera at fingertip distance and as many as five microphones. The professor also can project output from VCRs, CDs and DVDs. A small screen shows the professor what is being transmitted to the remote classroom.
In an adjoining control room, a producer works with 11 monitors and switchers to put all the audio and video parts together. The "picture-in-a-picture" capability can superimpose the professor's image into charts filled with the numbers of business.
There are 29 microphones for students. When a student makes a comment or asks a question, the producer zooms a camera in on the speaker.
The project of outfitting the room for international distance learning started two years ago, To date, Krannert's Executive Education Programs and GISMA have spent about $175,000 on cameras, recording equipment, computers and software in order to take as much distance out of distance education as possible. And, the room and distance education are both still works in progress, DeLa said.
"For example, we initially had a problem with radio frequency interference producing audio quality problems," DeLa said. "This is especially important when international students are taking courses taught by American professors speaking English, which is not the students' native language. Upgrading our instructor microphones to models that use frequencies above the interference range was a good solution for this situation."
The Indiana Distance Learning Association was founded in 1999 to encourage effective distance learning in the state. It presents distance learning awards to higher education, K-12 schools, corporations and health care providers. The IDLA is the state office of the U.S. Distance Learning Association.
Writer: J.M. Lillich, (765) 494-2077, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Chas DeLa, (765) 494-9564, email@example.com
Bill Lewellen, (765) 494-4397, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ray Steele, CEO of the Indiana Distance Learning Association, (765) 285-1889, email@example.com
Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; firstname.lastname@example.org
NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: Journalists can contact DeLa at (765) 494-9564 for a demonstration.
A publication-quality photograph is available at the News Service Web site and at the ftp site. Photo ID: sheahan.engmgmt.jpeg.