FARMINGTON, NM— Many San Juan College students who miss a day of class no longer need to beg their peers for their notes.
New technology is allowing for lectures to be digitally recorded, stored in an archive and made retrievable to students who are given access.
The technology is called VBrick video-on-demand, and it is revolutionizing the capabilities of the classroom, said Mike Savic, director of marketing for VBrick Systems.
"From their PC, (students and faculty) can look at an inventory of lectures, athletic events, educational materials," whatever the college decides to archive, he said.
San Juan College long has had a reputation as a leader in technology among community colleges nationwide.
A 2005 survey by the Center for Digital Education and the American Association of Community Colleges ranked the community college among the top 10 as far as "digital sophistication" was concerned.
In a presentation to the San Juan College Board earlier this week, Tim Warren, Vice President for Technology Services, outlined much of what the college has done in the last seven years to stay ahead of the curve.
During the 1999-2000 school year, the college's technology roster consisted of 10 classrooms with multimedia capabilities, 11 servers, 10 laptops and 1,000 PCs.
By last year, Warren said 100 percent of San Juan College's 108 classrooms had multimedia capabilities, the college has 502 available laptops, 2,000 PCs and 74 servers.
Then in June 2006, the college began using VBrick's interface, which permits authorized users to search the college's central digital video library to access stored programming.
"If you can't attend (class), you go to the VBrick and watch" the lecture, Warren said.
But programming is not limited to lectures. Savic said a college can encode National Geographic videos and other educational content to upload into the archives.
Each student who uses the video-on-demand server is given a password that has different permissions.
"Let's say you have a biology student. There's no need for them to watch a history lesson, so you restrict it," Savic said.
The VBrick also gets rid of those famous carts teachers used to wheel into a classroom to hook up to a television or video projector. Using VBrick, a teacher has only to access the digital video library via his or her PC, and can bring up the programming from there.
Savic thinks the college intends to use the VBrick system for its distance-learning programs. Students who are not located on the main campus can access the same lesson materials and lectures as those who live in the area. VBrick is only one of several new upgrades to the computer system at San Juan College this past year. The college also increased its bandwidth from 10 megabits per second to 30 megabits per second to improve browser efficiency, Warren said.
The college also began using Barracuda Spyware, which prevents computer-damaging spyware pop-ups from infesting a hard drive.
"We were having calls daily with people saying, We have slow computers.' We would look and they'd have a lot of spyware there. It's almost impossible to stop that stuff. We put in the Barracuda Spyware control and ... it reduced our calls to zero," Warren said.
Looking ahead to next year, Warren said there are plans in motion to implement online well controls. Also possible are more controlled wireless access points.