Webcasting, multimedia classrooms debut this year

 By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

23 August 00 | Classroom instruction is making a quantum leap from the desk to the desktop this fall. Digital Chemistry 1A, one of Berkeley's largest undergraduate courses, will be among the first of the university's lower-division general education offerings to be broadcast over the Web.

Internet-style broadcasting will allow students to tune in to lectures, participate in class discussions, take quizzes and get their grades all in real time, without the world wide wait.

Digital Chem 1A course coordinator and lecturer Mark Kubinec has been working with Berkeley's Multimedia Research Center to launch the new Webcast course, said Alex Pines, professor of chemistry and instructor of Chemistry 1A. Using the latest digital streaming technology, lectures will be broadcast live and accompanied by online versions of a Powerpoint lecture, featuring animation clips and interactive scripts to enhance each lecture. A digital archive of the lectures will also be available on the Web through a custom "lecture browser" that will allow students to search for presentations using key words, topics or Powerpoint slides.

Digital teaching technology won't get as simple as television sets anytime soon, but the latest experiment in Webcasting will help Berkeley test its potential for managing high enrollment courses, Pines said.

Multimedia technologies also are making their way into other classrooms this fall. About 735 courses are using state-of-the-art projection capabilities, according to the campus's Media Services Department, and all 240 general-assignment classrooms have Ethernet.

More and more courses are going to video as well. Media Services has set up video streaming for about 10 classes that are currently aired on the Berkeley Internet Broadcasting Service. Students are able to rent another 20 courses that have been put on videotape.

"A growing part of our department is devoted to preparing new or existing audio and video clips for inclusion on Websites," said Alberto Sifuentes, audiovisual supervisor in Media Services.

And digital video discs (DVD) have come to classrooms near you. Three lecture halls in Wheeler and Tan have new built-in DVD players, leaving 49 other VHS-equipped classrooms in the dust. Six DVD tape players are also available for short-term loans to faculty this year.

Still, there aren't enough adequately equipped classrooms for the infusion of requests coming in from faculty, Sifuentes said. His department expects between 1,000 and 1,500 requests for computer projection equipment, laptops and other computer-aided technologies this fall.

"We have five classroom technology specialists who help synchronize projectors with laptops, set up sound and video, and solve the many technical problems that come up in the hundreds of uses of technology that are going on at any given moment in our 240 general-assignment classrooms," added Victor Edmonds, an audiovisual technician. "But it wouldn't surprise me if we logged 4,000 equipment requests this year. That's how fast the demand is rising."



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