Thanks to a partnership started in 2006, Webster University’s nursing department and the Barnes Jewish College Learning Institute (BJC Learning Institute) are now using video-conferencing technology to bring Webster classes to Barnes Jewish Hospital employees living in rural parts of Missouri and Illinois.
In 2006, the nursing department of Webster University and the BJC Learning Institute began an academic partnership that allowed employees of the Barnes Jewish Hospital, or any of its 13 affiliated hospitals throughout Missouri and Illinois, to earn their bachelo’rs degree in nursing from Webster University. Employees of Barnes Jewish Hospital attend Webster classes taught by Webster nursing professors, but the classes are taught at the BJC Learning Institute in Brentwood.
The same year the BJC Learning Institute began its partnership with Webster, it invested in video-conferencing technology as an academic tool. In January 2011, Webster classes at the BJC Learning Institute were offered through video-conferencing for the first time. Instead of having to attend a class in person, BJC Learning Institute nursing students from parts of rural Missouri and Illinois have been given the option to video-conference classes.
In a degree program centered around working adults, the video-conference classes give students the ability to skip the long commute, saving them valuable time and money.
“I don’t have to drive for an hour. It’s great!” said Jean Campbell, a full-time nurse in the surgery department of Alton Memorial Hospital.
Campbell, 50, is taking video-conference classes while completing her bachelor’s degree in nursing through Webster’s R.N. (register nurse) to B.S.N. (bachelors science in nursing) program. The commute to the BJC Learning Institute from Alton meant she couldn’t get home until 10:30 p.m. at the earliest.
“I would have been tired,” Campbell said. “But it’s important to me to get this degree.”
Jenny Broeder, chair of the nursing department at Webster, teaches some of the video-conferenced classes at the BJC Learning Institute.
Broeder said that for any video-conference class at the BJC Learning Institute, the professor and most of the students are in a video-equipped classroom. The video-conferencing students, three or four at the most, watch the entire class on their laptops from a BJC Learning Institute affiliated hospital. They can control a camera to follow the movements of the professor. The professor can observe the students through a large video screen displayed at the rear of the classroom.
“I really felt like the students were in the classroom,” Broeder said. “I could really see them.”
Broeder found one drawback. On a night when she distributed handouts to the students in her classroom, she realized she had forgotten to email the material to the video-conferencing students.
“I was like, shoot, I’m handing this out and you guys don’t have it,’” Broeder said. “You just have to think about it. You have to plan.”
Gary Stocker, manager of learning partnerships at the BJC Learning Institute, said the video-conference classes came from a need to provide better education opportunities to distant BJC employees.
‘We saw that we had the technology, and we offered it,” Stocker said. “BJC just jumped right on the opportunity.”
Many of the classes offered through video-conferencing are theory based, such as statistics and various computer courses. But Stocker said when a class requires physical manipulation, such as nursing skills, the instructors will tell their video-conference students to come to the BJC Learning Institute just for that class.
Rachel Wedding, 28, an open-heart recovery nurse at Christian Northeast Hospital in Alton, Ill., has taken a couple of Webster’s video-conference classes in the past and appreciates the convenience video-conferencing brings.
“I didn’t have to fight the traffic from Alton to the BJC Learning Institute,” Wedding said. “I live five minutes away (from the hospital she video-conferenced from), and it’s really nice on days I have to work until midnight.”
Stocker said it’s word of mouth that is increasing the popularity of the program. The BJC Learning Institute plans on acquiring more video-conferencing hardware if the program outgrows the units they have now.
“There are folks who don’t want to do everything online,” Broeder said. “This still feels like it’s face-to-face. There’s still some distance, but it’s closing the gap.”