Pharmacy: Distance Education Programs in the SC College of Pharmacy
Guest: Dr. Joe DiPiro – College of Pharmacy/Dean’s Office, MUSC
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Joe DiPiro is Executive Dean of the South Carolina College of Pharmacy. Dr. DiPiro, in this podcast, let’s talk about distance education in the College of Pharmacy. A lot of people don’t really understand what that consists of. Can you describe that program?
Dr. Joe DiPiro: Oh, sure. And, just to begin, distance education is really becoming more of a norm than an exception in higher education. And I think the reason that many institutions begin a distance education program is to expand accessibility and flexibility, allowing students more options in the ways that they can learn through classes. So, here, in the South Carolina College of Pharmacy, one thing that was important to us was to bring together our experts, who are on the MUSC and USC campuses, and have them all contribute to our curriculum.
So, with a distance education program, our lectures are initiated either on the MUSC campus or the USC campus, and they’re transmitted over the South Carolina Light Rail, a fiber optic network, to the alternate campus. So, students at the USC campus get to hear from the real experts in their fields who are here at MUSC. And the students who are here at MUSC have the same opportunity to hear from the experts in their fields who are on the USC campus. So, we really have an opportunity, through distance education, to bring the best people from around the state into the curriculum.
There are a few other advantages of our process in doing this with distance education. And one is that we record every lecture. So, students find that after they’ve attended a lecture, if they have questions, or are uncertain about something, or just need more time to review a complex topic, when they’re at home, they can call up the lecture on their computer; that’s tied into the internet, and replay it, and re-listen, and use that for studying. Also, on occasion, we have; as in any program, students who are ill, or out for some reason and can’t be in class, they have more opportunities to keep up with what’s going on because they can listen to these recorded lectures. And, it’s audio and video, so they can see the slides that are projected in the instructor’s notes, as well as hear the instructor. So, this has become very popular for our students.
In our case, it’s about one half of the curriculum that’s offered by distance. And then, since it begins on; about half and half, each of the campuses, from one student’s perspective, about 25 percent of the full curriculum can be seen by distance. And this is on large-screen; high-definition projection, so it’s quite a lot better than one might imagine, and quite high-quality transmission from one campus to another.
We’re finding, now, that many other colleges around the country are using distance education methods. In the Southeast alone, all the major public colleges of pharmacy are doing this; Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, just to name a few. So, this is, really, the direction that higher education is headed, again, for a number of reasons, to achieve those efficiencies; achieve higher quality, by bringing experts into a curriculum who may be dispersed, geographically, throughout a state or a region.
We’re at a phase now where the faculty is adjusting to it. It takes quite awhile, from the traditional classroom setting that’s been used for many years to a distance education setting. So, students need to learn how they can best work within a distance education setting; and faculty as well. We’ve been doing this for the last few years and, I think, really been leading this in pharmacy education.
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. DiPiro, thanks so much for talking with us today.
Dr. Joe DiPiro: Thank you.