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Wimba Collaboration Suiteā„¢ Improves Access, Value and Effectiveness of Professional Development Programs

Facing budget restrictions and increased enrollments, schools use Wimba as a cost-effective, efficient and green solution to reach staff and adult learners

NEW YORK – April 14, 2010 – Wimba® Inc., a leading provider of collaborative solutions for educators around the world, announced today that colleges and universities are increasingly using the Wimba Collaboration Suite™ to provide efficient, effective professional development opportunities. By providing online access to critical training and continuing education classes, Wimba gives institutions a flexible, scalable and cost-effective solution for meeting the needs of staff and the growing number of adult learners looking to advance industry knowledge, earn required certifications and improve both employability and job effectiveness.

Professional Development More Important Than Ever

As the economy slowly improves, more and more adults continue to return to higher education for opportunities to improve their employability, learn new career skills or increase their effectiveness on the job.  Community colleges, universities and professional development organizations have found that Wimba’s collaborative solutions allow them to reach growing constituencies while decreasing expenses and often improving attendance.

In fact, Mississippi Virtual Community College (MSVCC) has implemented Wimba to deliver more comprehensive online learning to its faculty and staff than ever before.  In true “train the trainer” methodology, the school uses Wimba to teach its instructors how to effectively teach online.  Using Wimba Pronto, in particular, MSVCC has demonstrated to its instructors how they can create a high level of interactivity in their online courses, which quickly translates to greater student engagement and success.

The University of Winchester, meanwhile, has partnered with local companies to support employer engagement initiatives via Wimba. Participation in one company’s professional development program increased 50% over two years thanks to the ease of Wimba’s online classroom environment.

“Wimba helped Winchester to be taken seriously as innovative management educators,” said Neil Marriott, Dean of the Winchester School of Business. “Wimba provides the flexibility required by students who are working full or part-time, while giving them the 21st-century technology skills they will need to be successful in the workplace.”

Cost Savings on Two Fronts

By bringing learners together online to engage in collaborative meetings, skills-based instruction and interactive discussion forums, the Wimba Collaboration Suite increases access to new ideas and information without the costs associated with travel or time away from the office.

Vartouhi Asherian, an instructional designer and professor at the College of Southern Nevada – which operates three campuses and nine Academic and Learning Centers spread across the state – recognized the critical role Wimba plays in bringing together widely-dispersed colleagues in the face of large state budget cuts, which make travel cost-prohibitive.

“We have a lot of committees which are dispersed from our sites, so we’re incorporating meetings via Wimba so everyone can participate,” Asherian stated. “Wimba can make everything easier, bring people closer together and help us operate more efficiently.”

Further, in terms of going green, the Idaho Digital Learning Academy (IDLA) – a state-sponsored, online virtual K-12 school created to address the varying education needs of traditional, home-schooled, at-risk and gifted students – began extending its use of Wimba from delivering instruction to students to including professional development programs for more than 1,000 of Idaho’s teachers and staff across the state, resulting in significant environmental and cost savings.  Instead of having to drive to on-site locations across the state, Idaho faculty started meeting live online for training, ultimately helping increase participation in the program and also supporting Idaho’s green initiatives. Since this transition to Wimba in 2007, IDLA has achieved 100% statewide faculty participation, as well as:

•    Avoided over 7,205 “out of office” hours,
•    Saved $117, 979 in mileage reimbursements, and
•    Eliminated 237,710 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Donna Hutchinson, CEO of IDLA validates Wimba’s impact on their professional development programs noting, “I’ve been involved in numerous ed-tech projects since the 1990s and have never seen a technology adopted so quickly.”

Flexibility Yields Greater Access, Participation

One of the greatest values of professional development is collaboration with industry peers. However, in today’s economy it isn’t easy to gather for days worth of workshops, or to travel for guest lectures and job shadowing – making it difficult for many professionals to take advantage of career development opportunities. With Wimba, institutions can appeal to a much greater audience by offering easy access to continuing education programs regardless of time and location.

For example, Murdoch University in Perth, Australia, uses Wimba to provide peer-to-peer collaboration for professional veterinarians who are practicing in remote areas of the country.  The program has been so successful it has given rise to an international vet community with participants in Perth, Dubai, Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Malaysia and more.

“Wimba has enabled the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences to take continuing professional development to practicing veterinarians in Western Australia and beyond,” said John Edwards, professor and former Dean of the School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences at Murdoch. “The opportunity to receive practical, relevant continuing education on a regular basis in the convenience and comfort of their own environment is much appreciated by the busy professional veterinarians.”

“With the economy still recovering and budgets still tight, there has never a better time for schools to take advantage of the full range of benefits our collaborative solutions provide,” said Carol Vallone, CEO and Chairman of the Board at Wimba. “By leveraging the same technology they already use to deliver dynamic instruction, academic help and campus wide collaboration, institutions are also more effectively and efficiently reaching staff and adult learners seeking career advancement and professional development opportunities.  Those who are really innovative save on their internal training costs while generating new revenue by enrolling more adult learners.”