University of Wisconsin
School of Nursing

Transforming Higher Education
Through Collaborative Technology

Collaborative technology is transforming higher education, but perhaps nowhere is that change more evident or exciting than at the University of Wisconsin’s Madison School of Nursing. “It’s wonderful and a little bit scary,” says Jerzy “George” Jura, director of academic technology.

For the Doctor of Nursing Practice and Nursing Ph.D. programs, Diversified’s design team created two-tiered seminar rooms, each of which hold up to 60 students. Each room is equipped with video conferencing systems and collaborative technology so instructors can bring in guest lecturers or combine their classes with those at other locations. Each tier of the rooms holds two rows of tables, built to enable students in the front-most row to turn around and work in groups with those at the tables behind them. When they do so, they can share a laptop to create a full-class presentation or take notes on an 18”x 23” marker-board—a low-tech but useful device that can be shown on one or both side-by-side projection screens.

Additionally, the tables include push-to-talk microphones at each seat. “You can speak in a normal tone of voice, yet everyone can hear you clearly,” says Diversified account executive, Dave Ruddy. Furthermore, the rooms include digital recording systems so students can review what was covered via the University’s video-on-demand server. To facilitate those recordings and classroom-to-classroom video conferences, each microphone button triggers one of three, wall-mounted Vaddio cameras to zoom in on the person speaking. If a student mic is not active, the camera system defaults to a shot of the instructor. “It’s always our goal to make the rooms easy to operate, and I think we did that here,” Ruddy adds.

“Ironically,” Jura says, “I’ll have someone come in and ask, ‘Is it difficult to teach with all that technology?’ ‘No,’ I’ll answer. ‘It can be challenging to come up with good activities. But using the technology, pushing the right buttons, has never been an issue.’”