North Texas Daily

Video conferences increase efficiency in multiple areas

Video conferences increase efficiency in multiple areas

February 28
00:07 2013

Ben Peyton / Senior Staff Writer

Health Science students stationed in seven different Texas cities can now interact with each other instantly since the Health Science Center has released a new web conferencing program.

The program lets students who are on their third-year family medicine clerkships, which are eight-week rotations, have face-to-face conferences once a week with their professor and classmates to discuss their most interesting cases of the previous week.

After the eight-week rotation another seven participants will be stationed at the same locations.

“I think just being able to connect with everybody that one time a week to ask questions, to share stories, to get a bold spring of what we need to be doing is just really helpful and I think that’s the best thing about the web conference,” said Kelli Windsor, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine junior who is stationed in Eastland.

The students participating are in the TCOM’s Rural Osteopathic Medical Education of Texas program that is designed to give students the skill and preparation they need to address the unique medical needs of a rural community.

“There have been a lot of interesting stories just because you know we’re all doing medical rotations,” Windsor said. “That’s probably what I’ve learned the most from actually, is that they’re resharing their stories because they’ve learned throughout the week and the interesting things that happened.”

The level of health care can be interpreted as subpar compared to urban medical centers, Windsor said, because there are fewer specialists available. But since there are fewer specialists in rural areas, the doctors are often more skilled because they have to be more equipped to handle diverse cases themselves, she said.

John Bowling, professor of Rural Medicine and assistant dean of Rural Medical Education, leads the program. The locations chosen for this rotation are Clifton, Eagle Lake, Eastland, Fredericksburg, Groesbeck, Mission and Perryton.

To connect with other students,they can use  a laptop, webcam and a headset with a microphone with software on the learning management system, the same system that is used by Blackboard.

The benefits of using a web conference are that students are able to reach out to each other from a distance, said Director of Online Education Sara Baber.

Downsides of a web conference class are the technical issues that occur from time to time, but back up plans are in place. For example, all conferences are recorded to ensure students do not miss anything, Baber said.

“We think this is a wonderful way to engage our students at a distance and enable them to collaborate and communicate with one another in ways that had not been possible before,” Baber said.

In the past students would have only been able to contact each other over a phone conference but this way students can see six other participants on their computer screens while they communicate, Baber said.

The UNT main campus does not use a web-based program.

Before video conferencing, UNT would have to fly in potential job candidates and meet them at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, but can now run multiple video conferences without having to meet in person.

“Obviously that saves travel time, a lot of money, gas and productivity,” said video conference manager Brenda Ritz.

Video conferencing is also used to connect with employees and potential employees, as well a few classes connect to the UNT Dallas campus, Collin Higher Education Center and two local high schools, Ritz said.

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