NEW YORK – September 9, 2009 – Wimba® Inc., the education technology company that helps people teach people, announced today that colleges, universities and schools across the country are planning to leverage Wimba’s collaborative software to prepare for a potential resurgence of the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus (Swine Flu). With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting an increase in cases coinciding with the return of students to campus, education leaders nationwide are putting comprehensive plans in place to not only protect their learning communities from the possibility of an outbreak, but also to ensure continuity of teaching and service.
It is paramount that Swine Flu preparedness includes consideration of a scenario in which a physical campus may be closed, or staff and students temporarily quarantined, but instruction continue without interruption. With Wimba Classroom™, instructors can present course material in a virtual classroom, without fear of spreading infection. Archives of this same material are easily created and exported as MP3 or MP4 files, then made immediately available for any ill student to access and review once they’ve recovered. Archived content will significantly reduce the impact on a student’s academic recovery time.
The text chat, blended audio and video, application sharing and whiteboard capabilities of Wimba Pronto™—an academic-centric instant messaging system—enable learning communities to stay connected regardless of physical proximity. Office hours or study breaks can be held online and help-desk services can be delivered virtually. Student-to-student and instructor-to-student interaction is facilitated by the integration of Wimba Pronto with class rosters – ensuring critical time is not lost for students or instructors.
Wimba customers have already successfully activated their disaster recovery plans by utilizing Wimba collaboration and instant messaging technology. These examples highlight how Wimba might also be employed during a Swine Flu outbreak.
Staying Ahead of Disaster
· Kansas State University has developed comprehensive online resources for faculty and staff on emergency preparation, featuring information on the use of the Wimba platform.
· The University of Utah recently produced and distributed a video entitled, “What If They Closed The Campus?” pointing its community to the tools available in the event of a disaster or outbreak such as Swine Flu. Available on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLdb0QWEfVs), the video includes details about the use of course management systems and Wimba for uninterrupted communication.
· Dalhousie University used Wimba Classroom for Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer to update 150 members of the province’s medical community about the Swine Flu outbreak.
“Wimba was the only technology that could ramp up almost immediately and be easily accessible by every physician in the province,” said Phil O’Hara, Assistant Director of Academic Computing Services at Dalhousie University.
· The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) holds regular online meetings among its 14 campuses to discuss its disaster preparedness initiatives using Wimba.
Preparedness Pays Off
· In April, Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota relied on Wimba Classroom to continue course delivery after the campus was shut down for a month following severe flooding from the Sheyenne River.
· Last May, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in San Antonio turned to Wimba Pronto to communicate with students, faculty and administrators after a fire burned down its main administrative building, destroying the university’s phone system.
“We were only closed one day,” says Raquel Moncado, Instructional Technology Specialist at Our Lady of the Lake University. “Classes resumed right away because of Lake Online, the name we gave our Blackboard system, and Wimba. Many professors conducted classes online from home. We had the tools and we knew how to use them, so we were prepared.”
· In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, several nursing classes at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center relied on Wimba and other online course technologies to help deliver instruction to its students, despite the displacement of many and the fact that several campus buildings were completely non-operational.
“No learning community is exempt from considering the impact of a Swine Flu outbreak. Although preventative measures are obviously key, being prepared with a robust plan to minimize any disruption of teaching or the delivery of services is imperative,” said Carol Vallone, CEO and Chairman of the Board at Wimba. “We certainly hope no customer has to deploy its Swine Flu preparedness plan, but are pleased to be part of the solution when and if it becomes necessary.”