Widely acclaimed for its engaged learning model, the venerable Elon University in North Carolina stayed true to its mission in 2012 when it renovated a newly acquired building to house its expanded School of Health Sciences. A state-of-the-art audiovisual system takes faculty/student interaction to new heights for students enrolled in Elon’s Physician Assistant and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs.
When Elon acquired the former Smithfield Foods building adjacent to the main campus, the stately brick facility required substantial renovation to serve its intended academic purpose. As part of the massive project, university trustees approved the installation of an integrated audiovisual system to create a more collaborative environment for teachers and students.
“They’ve really done a great job with this,” said integrator Brian Cox of Audio & Light, which worked with Elon University’s campus technology department to create an affordable, high-quality installation. “Each skills laboratory room contains at least a pair of Vaddio HD-19 pan/tilt/zoom cameras, a ceiling-mounted projector and multiple LCD screens, all operated by a Crestron systems controller.”
The extensive system installed at Elon University’s School of Health Sciences revolves around Vaddio cameras. Cox says choosing Vaddio was easy for several reasons.
“We wanted to use a high-definition camera, and it had to be a pan/tilt/zoom model,” he said. “Vaddio is known for its reliability, and it’s made in the USA so Vaddio also can service the equipment if necessary. Elon’s system was designed to meet their unique requirements and their budget. Vaddio proved to be the best value, overall.”
STUDENTS USE VIDEO TO CRITIQUE THEIR OWN PERFORMANCE
The 30 Vaddio cameras used in the Elon’s School of Health Sciences foster peer and faculty engagement. From the anatomy lab to the physical therapy skills lab, high-definition cameras record every classroom interaction and allow students to watch their own and others’ work from a detached point of view. This new perspective makes it easier to identify what they’re doing wrong and, perhaps more importantly, what they’re doing right so they don’t squander precious time practicing skills they’ve already mastered. Instead, students can focus on areas of improvement.
For example, when a physician assistant student is learning how to listen to heart and lung sounds, precise stethoscope placement on the patient’s chest and back is crucial. Each time a student performs a physical examination on a patient, a Vaddio camera installed in the room records the interaction, downloads it to a PC and archives it for later viewing. This helps students see whether or not they’re positioning the stethoscope correctly and enables them to watch their proficiency increase over the course of the program.
“As I understand it, these videos actually become part of the student’s academic record,” Cox said. “Faculty members can review the videos with the student to point out where they may need to improve and where they’re doing things right.”
But recording archival footage isn’t the only use for the in-lab cameras. They also capture real-time teaching moments for sharing with the group. In the anatomy lab, instructors can use the cameras to zoom in on a student’s dissection work and send the video out to all 18 wall-mounted monitors for other students to see. If a student has correctly differentiated between an artery and a vein in the donor patient’s arm, for example, the other students can simply view this image on a monitor instead of walking over to see it in person. Better yet, students can compare the video on the monitor to the actual anatomy in front of them in order to improve their own ability to identify these structures. In this way, technology helps students learn from each other.
TECHNOLOGY ELEVATES THE TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Of course, peer-to-peer learning doesn’t constitute the full extent of the robust education Elon provides its health sciences students. As with any higher education program, students in the physician assistant and physical therapist programs rely heavily on instruction from faculty members. The audiovisual system, and the Vaddio cameras in particular, elevate the educational experience while making it highly engaging.
The problem of students at the back of the classroom being unable to see the material being presented up front has been around almost since schools were invented. Elon’s sophisticated audiovisual system overcomes this problem by enabling faculty members to use a PC to project instructional material not only to a screen at the front but to the many wall-mounted monitors in each lab. Since each learner has easy access to a large screen nearby, the information is easily viewed and noted.
Cameras allow instructors to broadcast their own demonstration of, say, how to properly manipulate the knee joint during a rehabilitation session. Physical therapy students working concurrently with their own patients can watch the monitors to see how the teacher performs the skill and then immediately begin practicing it. The instructor can pan, tilt or zoom the Vaddio camera to capture the skill demonstration from many angles to give students keener perspective. The cameras also can be used to capture a student’s effort for later review or for instant broadcast to the rest of the class for teaching purposes. This system fosters instructional engagement between student peers and teachers for a collaborative learning experience. It’s also a very efficient teaching method. Having viewed the instructor’s demonstration of a skill, students can maximize practice time as the teacher then moves around the room to provide individualized instruction.
ENRICHED LEARNING THROUGH TECHNOLOGY EQUALS STUDENT WIN
It’s hard to underestimate the value to a student of being able to watch his or her own performance from an outside viewpoint. The ability to visually critique one’s own movements or actions can lead to the “ah-ha” moment that quickly propels learning forward. If a physical therapy student has struggled to perform a certain limb rotation, for example, viewing a tape of the patient encounter might show the problem is as simple as the student’s body positioning in relation to the patient. It’s much easier for students to grasp the nature of the problem when they can see it with their own eyes, instead of relying on a description from an observer.
Because Vaddio’s HD-19 PTZ cameras can capture and record multiple angles in Elon’s many health sciences labs, students and faculty benefit from a rich, high-quality learning environment. True to Elon University’s mission to be a leader in engaged learning, this high-tech approach to teaching future physician assistants and physical therapists promotes a high level of peer and faculty interaction.