Palomar Community College Students Served With Distance Learning

Palomar Community College, located in San Marcos, Calif., recognizes that many of its students are employed and need more choices than just traditional classes.
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Palomar Community College, located in San Marcos, Calif., recognizes that many of its students are employed and need more choices than just traditional classes.

PCTV has been a pioneer in providing telecourses and online classes

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In Palomar College Television Station’s production booth,
Jonathan Keena, editor, on the left, and Bill Wisneski, producer,
discuss production matters.
Palomar Community College, located in San Marcos, Calif., recognizes that many of its students are employed and need more choices than just traditional classes. As a result, it has been using the school’s television station to provide students with distance education.

The Palomar College Television Station (PCTV) has been a pioneer of distance learning, providing telecourses and online classes to both students and faculty since 1975, according to station staff. The dramatic increase in online classes during the last five years is a reflection of the student demand for online education.

The increase in the use of online classes is largely due to the flexibility long-distance education provides students. “We are at a community college where a lot of students are working, said Bill Wisneski, PCTV producer, “so the flexibility of not having to come to class offers reduced time they have to travel to campus.”

When PCTV entered into distance learning it did so by offering two telecourses per year, Wisneski said. The station had students meet in the studio for the class, which would be recorded and then broadcast “on PCTV for students to view for credit.” Eventually, the production strategy evolved, becoming more “polished” so the classes did not have to be held in the studio.

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On the floor of PCTV’s studio, Mona
Witherington, production coordinator,
and Bill Wisneski, producer, review
production notes.
When PCTV began telecourse broadcasts, the station only had a cable channel, but students could also check out tapes from the school library, Wisneski said. Like the production, the college’s distance-learning policy evolved. Now a telecourse is comprised of 26 half-hour videos. Students enroll in a “TV class,” and rather than going to the campus for a lecture, the students watch the video on TV.


PCTV’s ability to adapt to student needs through technology includes designing videos for online viewing. “Nowadays students are very visual. They have high expectations, so the courses that integrate the multimedia aspect of it are doing much better,” said Wisneski. The ability to pause and rewind a lecture is a feature that students find useful.

Also proving to be useful is mobile-device viewing. Tablets make it possible for students to down- load all the course videos to their devices and have the class “on the go.” This enables them to “watch it at the beach, the park or wherever they really want to,” he said.

In addition, members of Palomar’s faculty have gravitated to providing online support materials for their courses, which is largely due to student demand. Faculty members that have used video components report improvement in the students and their responses.


But telecourses are not the only programs produced by PCTV; the station is also the campus’ media resource. In that function, the station records guest speakers, concerts, college president presentations, promo videos and commercials for departments and specific classes.

“Really anything at the higher-end video level, we provide the support for,” said Wisneski. PCTV can turn out those “down-and-dirty” projects relatively quickly, which includes editing, inserting graphics and “polishing it up” within 48 hours.

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At the Emmy Awards PCTV staff gather for a group photo. They are, from left, Mona Witherington, Bill Wisneski, Luke Bisagna, who oversees broadcast operations, Jonathan Keena, and Kevin O’Hara, editor. PCTV also now pursues field production and gets out of the studio whenever possible. “We try to go out in the field, have the instructor on location inter- viewing someone or talking about stuff to make it more interesting for students, more ‘real world,’” Wisneski said.

Among the PCTV productions that involved field production was a series on marine animals that comprised 60 15-minute videos that are the basis for a 100-level (freshman) online biology class. The videos, which took about a year to make, include off- campus interviews at the Institute of Oceanography.

“We were fortunate to receive a grant so that we could travel to the Monetary Bay area. We did standouts with the professor talking about the sea otters, some of which we are using to produce a mini documentary on sea otters, which will be part of the series, as well as a number of interviews that are incorporated with the studio lectures.”

PCTV’s “real-world” approach has been successful, and the station has the Emmys to prove it. PCTV has won more than 10 National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Regional Emmy Awards for programs such as “Circle of Life: The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem” and the documentary “From War to Peace and Beyond.”

In addition to winning awards, PCTV generates outside revenue by licensing its videos to companies, libraries, individuals, other colleges and distribution companies “that sell our videos fairly successfully,” Wisneski said.

Just like many other colleges, when PCTV first began, the station felt the financial pressures. “We were shooting everything on tape [which] took a lot longer, the graphics, everything,” said Wisneski, “On campus there are people who thought perhaps our money could be used better elsewhere, so there has always been a need to kind of prove ourselves,” he said. That has spurred the station’s staff to “constantly try to do more, and improve what we do."


Palomar College Television Station: