Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions gives Free State DoH’s iCAM interactive learning channel a R12m facelift
28 September 2011
The pioneering Interactive Learning, Communication and Management (iCAM) project, an interactive distance learning solution, was initiated in 2000 by the Free State Department of Health (DoH) to assist in the training of health workers across the province. It has since won a number of awards – and it’s just got a R12 million facelift. A brand new turnkey iCAM studio has been implemented at Bophelo House, the Free State DoH’s headquarters, by Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions.
Says Louis Barnard who heads up of the iCAM project for the Free State DoH:
“The new studios, which were commissioned for the first time in May 2011, will allow us to more efficiently and effectively create content, edit it and repurpose it for different audiences. This solution sees us move from outdated technology and infrastructure to a Standard Definition digital system which will serve us more than adequately over the next three to five years, allowing us to scale our operations as needed. And with this set up we will be able to easily move to HD technologies in a couple of years if we feel it necessary.”
The new iCAM facilities at Bophelo House are housed on the fifth floor, an addition to the building that was specifically built to accommodate the studio. The iCAM facilities include three control rooms, one main and two smaller broadcasting studios, two editing rooms with voiceover booths, and one central apparatus room. The auditorium at Bophelo House can also serve as a broadcasting studio. There is also editing equipment and central storage with server based play out.
The studios are used for content creation by DoH trainers and officials, as well as University of the Free State lecturers and professors who have entered a partnership with the Free State DoH. Traditional tutor led training using teaching aids like projectors, videos and slides is recorded, as are announcements and ‘magazine’ show interviews and debates on topical issues. Content is then broadcast via a dedicated 24-hour satellite channel leased from Telkom to the 40 iCAM enabled classrooms at clinics, hospitals and other DoH facilities dotted around the province. Content is decoded at these sites using set top boxes. In the majority of instances the tuition is interactive, with facilitators standing by to respond to live questions from learners around the country. iCAM is also used for managerial meetings and corporate communication.
Explains Barnard: “Almost 16 000 DoH students – from administrative to nursing staff, emergency services personnel, doctors and pharmacy staff – pass annually through the 40 iCAM enabled classrooms dotted around the province. The iCAM system is vital to the Free State DoH and its benefits are enormous. It not only allows us to inexpensively enhance skills levels of different personnel groups, but ensures new methods, approaches and information are disseminated to the correct groups timeously. It also ensures staff earn CPD (continuous performance development) points. Compared to the traditional classroom teaching, it’s a no-brainer in terms of cost savings, reach, maximising staff productivity and, most importantly, optimising the quality of service patients receive at our clinics and hospitals.
“With a full schedule for content creation and delivery, equipment that had reached end of life and studio space we had outgrown, we needed to refresh our infrastructure to enhance the efficiency, volume and quality of our outputs. Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions won the tender bid against eight other contenders with a solution custom made to suit our needs.”
Notes Steven Lauter, Sales Manager, Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions: “The Free State DoH studios are on a par with any commercial studio. We designed, supplied and installed a turnkey Standard Definition (SD) digital solution to meet their needs now and into the future. Among others, the main studio is fully kitted out with four Sony cameras, while the two smaller studios make use of a ‘hands free’ PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) solutions that do not need a cameraman. Leading brand products used include Sony cameras, Autocue teleprompters, Clearcom intercom systems, Ross vision mixers, Miller tripods, Avid Deko Character Generators, and Avid post production editing and storage solutions.”
The Free State DoH came up against a number of challenges in completing and commissioning the studios. Says Barnard: “There was a budgetary challenge which delayed implementation for two years, and then there was a two-year delay in getting the necessary satellite link at Bophela house. Eventually in May 2011, we got a temporary satellite dish onto the roof. We stopped broadcasting for a single week to get our 25-person iCAM team, which includes trainers and technicians, up and running at the new studios.”
Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions assisted with training for operators and technicians on the new technology, as well as for first line problem solving. Notes Barnard: “Jasco ICT Broadcast Solutions assisted us throughout this period, remaining highly accessible and not only delivering a first class installation but finding real solutions to our unique challenges.”
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