• How Others Do It: Telepresence Technology Boosts ODU’s Reach

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    February 19, 2014

    Old Dominion University's (ODU) Career Management Center (CMC) has introduced telepresence technology to offer two-way communication for students, alumni, and prospective employers through its Cyber Career Center.

    “The use of telepresence expands the breadth and depth of the CMC's online capabilities, so two-way communication between clients of the center and other locations can be truly interactive,” says Erin Mills, assistant director of the CMC.

    Telepresence, Mills explains, refers to a set of technologies that allows individuals to feel as if they were present at a place other than their true location.

    “Telepresence requires that the user's senses be provided with such stimuli as to give the feeling of being in that other location,” she notes.

    Through the CMC, and using these technologies, ODU students can be connected to educational and career resources, providing a way for them to experience a wide range of content and interaction with career and employer personnel, minimizing the barriers of time and accessibility.

    “Presentations can be broadcast by a Cyber Career Center staff member to an individual employer, a company, an individual student, or a class,” notes Bo Yi, employer recruiting consultant.

    “Employers can conduct a presentation at ODU's Norfolk, Virginia, campus to be viewed by distance learning students as far away as Washington State, or abroad, or in reverse from any employer location in the world back to the CMC,” adds Steven Young, career consultant. “As an added benefit to employers, no investment in special equipment is needed; a laptop or mobile device with camera is all that is needed in order to effectively connect and communicate.”

    To support ODU’s growing population of distance learning students, the CMC funded many online tools, resources, and services, and partnered with ODU Distance Learning to deliver information sessions and webinars virtually through the latter office’s facilities.

    “The idea to turn the Cyber Career Center into one of these facilities was a way to provide more convenience and control to our primary programming constituents,” says Nakia Madry, assistant director of the CMC. “The system design was identical to the existing technology in classrooms used by distance learning to present their online classes to guarantee compatibility and ease of use for our student users.”

    The system was installed over a three-day period in May 2013. In the latter part of 2013, after the implementation of the telepresence technology, there were more than 450 student interactions—ranging from webinars to interest meetings, interviews, and employer-sponsored information sessions—using the technology.

    “An added benefit of the system is the ability to record and archive each live event so that students are able to access them on-demand in the future,” says Madry. “Our data show that more than 200 of the students who used the system accessed an archive of a live event.”

    While the technology was new to the CMC, it wasn’t to its student users, so the burden of the learning curve fell on the CMC staff. One advantage was that the CMC’s is an identical system to those used by Distance Learning, so ODU’s Academic Technology Services (ATS) team can provide virtual support for all CMC telepresence events.

    “We have created manuals, drawings, how-tos, and troubleshooting references for our staff,” Madry says. “We also spent a great deal of time designing ‘most likely’ used scenarios based on our anticipated programming so that we could automate settings in the system.”

    Madry also points out that it has also been beneficial to designate significant lead-time before every event with ATS to test the system connectivity and be sure that participants are seeing and hearing everything CMC staff members want them to.

    “This capability is not just about new technology,” says Tom Wunderlich, CMC executive director, “but in how we bring students and employers into our classes and presentations, and how we take students to places that they cannot physically visit and engage with people they would not typically interact with.”