The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers highly sought after degree programs with a strong focus on getting students prepared for the next step in their chosen careers. The Center for Communication Disorders is integral to that preparation. This regional resource serves hundreds of individuals with communication challenges each year. Students have an excellent opportunity to grow in their clinical skills all while serving the community. Many of the treatment facilities feature observation areas where instructors, students or the patient‟s family members can observe unobtrusively. The graduate degree program offered by the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Part of the accreditation requirements involve minimum hours of observation for both instructors and students.
A TECHNOLOGY CROSSROADS
In order to meet the hourly student observation requirements the department had augmented the physical observation area with analog video recording technologies. Four of the twenty rooms were outfitted with cameras and VHS recording equipment, while others had access to mobile carts with more modern handheld digital cameras. Video clips were found to help improve classroom instruction by viewing the examples. How-ever, the VHS system proved to be very time consuming. Angie Sterling-Orth, Director of Clinical Programs and Services lamented that “the department had these boxes and boxes of old VHS tapes and maybe three minutes of a sixty minute tape was shown in class. We had people spending hours trying to put clips of video onto DVDs to show in class. It was a nightmare”. Ms. Sterling-Orth was beginning to hear of other university‟s implementing all digital systems for both observation and recording. She and her colleagues began to compile a „wish list‟ of technologies she knew would strengthen their program.
The LTS office began to solicit and evaluate bids. Many were coming in well over budget or lacked some of the key features needed. The university then heard of a successful implementation of a similar system at the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. A regional audio visual integration firm that was doing other work on campus provided that solution for Madison and was asked to submit a bid for the same system. The core recording technology was the IVS software and hardware package. The solution appeared to meet or exceed all their needs, while staying well under their budget. When the bid process was complete, our technology was selected.
EASE OF USE IMPROVES PROGRAM
IP (internet protocol) cameras and microphones were installed in all twenty clinic rooms. The audio/video signal resides on the buildings network and is recorded by the IVS servers in the data room. Each instructor has access to view any number of live sessions from the comfort of their own office. Nearly every session is recorded by the supervisor who can schedule the recording in advance or initiate it on demand. They simply log into the software from their computer, pick the room and date/ time of the session. As they schedule recording they can tag each session with data specific to that session. Data such as supervisor name, session type and disorder descriptions are added to each recording with simple drop down lists. The beauty is that after the session is recorded both faculty and students can simply enter in any of these „keywords‟ to search the entire library of recording to quickly find what they are looking for. The result has been an increase in productivity from the supervisor perspective. Now they can observe 50-75% of student sessions, often times increasing that to 100% early in the semesters. Since this can all be done from their own office, it allows them time to effectively multi-task while observing sessions. Angie Sterling-Orth has noticed a positive impact on the students as well, “The new system truly helps our students get better, faster. This results in better service to our clients. Their clinical experience is more robust, complete and effective,” said Sterling-Orth. The instructors are also noticing improvements in the classroom. Now that they can quickly search their database of clinical videos, download them to their workstations or laptops and easily create smaller clips, video is being used in the classroom more than ever before. By reviewing both positive and negative examples of clinical practices the students are able to make changes much faster than before. Furthermore, since many patients will get treatment at the center over multiple semesters, incoming students can review their new patients video history to get up to speed quickly.
As the students and faculty become more comfortable with the technology, the program is putting the system to use in ways they didn‟t initially intend to. Angie Sterling-Orth proudly recalled a shining moment where she used the video system to quickly record a group social skills session with Autism and Asperger‟s patients. She was able to use the recorded video in a follow up session and found the patients had a tremendously positive reaction to seeing themselves on video, even giving each other feedback. “It was the 1st time in my decade as a supervisor that I used actual session footage with a client. With the old system this was just too cumbersome to even attempt,” Sterling-Orth remarked. The faculty really credits the LTS staff for a successful implementation. Since this was the 1st IP based solution the faculty has used, it was a little challenging for the community to learn. The LTS staff, supported by PDS, did a great job with all the training and troubleshooting required to make the project a success. The LTS staff is even leveraging the campus VPN network to allow the instructors access to the video library from home. With over 200 applications for the next 20 available positions in the UWEC CSD graduate program it‟s a very exciting time for the department. As the technology continues to be leveraged throughout the program the staff is very optimistic for the future. Dr. Lisa LaSalle, who frequently mentors masters students working on their thesis has enjoyed watching students even turn the cameras on themselves. “Who knows, maybe using this video system will help spark the next great research idea,” LaSalle said.