On the first day of class, some students sat down to watch their professor via an online video connection. In this Interactive Video Based Course (IVBC), students more or less Skype with their professors, as opposed to seeing them in person. Keeping up with the digital era, UTSA now uses these virtual teaching classrooms when resources, such as time or room scheduling, become scarce.

UTSA offers approximately 38 IVBCs a semester between the downtown and main campuses and 3-5 courses in conjunction with other universities.

According to the UTSA website, these courses use technology to complement academic programs while integrating state-of-the-art advancements in interactive classroom technology. Classes, including accounting, political science and biology, make use of these new technology.

“It’s just as effective as a traditional classroom. The classroom lesson is still the same, and the only thing that would hinder it is if the computers went down,” freshman biology major Bianca Macintosh said in an Introduction to American Politics IVBC class.

While some students are satisfied watching their professor over a video connection, many feel cheated by the lack of personal interaction with their professor.

Brantë Zbranek, a freshman enrolled in an IVBC, feels “disconnected from a lack of one-on-one interaction.” Zbranek also notes that the equipment is less than perfect.

“Sometimes I don’t want to ask a question because the speakers don’t even work,” Zbranck said. This, combined with regular cell-phone interference distorting audio, can discourage many students from interacting with their instructor.

Professor Robert Rosales, who virtually teaches an American politics class between the downtown and main campuses, would prefer to see his students in person. Rosales believes students should be more involved in deciding whether to implement these courses. Some students even feel cheated that they paid money for a class and are only able to see their professor on a TV screen.

IVBCs are not limited to the downtown and main campuses. Classes are often linked to Southwest Research Institute and periodically share a course with the UT Health Science Center, UT Austin and Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India.

According to Robert Granado, the Office of Information Technology has an extra-large world map with pushpins, marking all the places that have digitally connected with UTSA. The Office of Information Technology has even connected to the International Space Station.

Since 1993, UTSA has embraced digital technology through the use of Interactive Video Courses. Even though some students may find the courses less favorable to a traditional classroom setting, these courses can offer advantages that would have otherwise been impossible.

And with state cuts to Texas higher education funding, these classes may become more and more common as an effective way for the university to save money.

 

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