PULLMAN, Wash. — Students from Washington State University and other universities across the country are attending interactive lectures at a distance without leaving campus thanks to contemporary interactive videoconferencing technology.

Moderating a philosophy seminar with equipment recently acquired by the WSU College of Liberal Arts, students of philosophy professor Joseph Keim Campbell watched and responded to lectures given by Peter Klein, a faculty member at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Other conferences have connected WSU students and faculty with Purdue University and the University of Alaska.

Campbell said the telecommunications technology lets students and scholars from anywhere work together. “Students get to learn and work with scholars they would otherwise miss out on seeing or even talking to. The plan is to have three or four conference participants teach 50-minute lectures from their home campus.

Faculty members also benefit from the technology. “We are able to have faculty in the college meet and collaborate with professors at other universities on joint research sessions, help with planning and even teach courses,” he said.

”This investment, besides being beneficial to our students, is allowing our faculty to interact and collaborate with each other in a way that is more meaningful than an e-mail or a telephone conversation,” said Barbara Couture, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

According to Wade Lafferty, computing coordinator for the college, the new digital conferencing technology coordinates with up to three remote locations at a time and can record lectures for later viewing. “By working with the University’s Information Technology Services, the equipment can be coordinated with interactive video technology to deliver courses to WSU campuses and learning centers across the state. The Washington Higher Education Telecommunication System uses similar equipment to share courses and provide videoconferencing for students, faculty and administrators throughout the WSU community.” Lafferty said. “It can support conferences with multiple sites, such as WSU Spokane, Tri-Cities or Vancouver, from any location on campus with network access.”

Klein said the lecture with Campbell’s class was his first time using the videoconferencing equipment. “Think of a class in which we study some of the writings of contemporary philosophers and then students get a chance to meet and talk with them via videoconferencing.  Pretty neat,” he said.

And students agree. “It’s a really interesting concept to have guest lecturers without having to get anyone to come to WSU,” said Jeff R. Emmick, a student who attended an interactive lecture.