The lights dim, and a movie projector flickers to life.
Haunting music somewhat akin to the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans echoes through a room filled with about 30 viewers.
On the screen flashes images from the past: an eerie shot of Abraham Lincoln accompanied by a gunshot; Theodore Roosevelt delivering one of his famous fiery speeches; men charging onto the Normandy beaches during World War II, and horrifying images from Vietnam.
Accompanying these pictures are words such as “courage” and “frustration.”
Then at the end of the preview, a rapid succession of images and sounds pop onto the screen.
Boom. Five professors.
Boom. Three credits.
Boom. One course.
American History: Reconstruction to the Present.
No, this theatrical display was not a movie trailer. It was instead a preview for a new distance learning system that may be coming to USF computer screens soon.
The system was created by a relatively new company called Global Education Network. Chief Executive Officer Alexander Parker and Chief Operating Officer Ian Huschle visited USF for the second time Thursday, sharing their vision with the Advertising Club.
The men, who, combined, have a strong background in education and working with major corporations, said their goal is simply to offer students an alternative in education.
“At the end of the day, more choice is a better choice,” Parker said. “How can you go wrong?”
American History is one of a few first-and second-year courses the company has developed. Each course, Parker said, costs $1 million and a year to develop.
At this point, Huschle said, the company is in the early stages of marketing and testing.
Parker said what Global Education Network is offering is an accredited Internet class that should be accepted by USF and can be taken at a student’s pace and leisure.
Parker gave a demonstration of an American history lesson. The course runs like a video, with slides and moving images accompanied by narration. The lesson is reminiscent of a program on The History Channel.
The page is set up so that a student can pause or rewind the tape. A link allows questions to be sent to a professor via e-mail, and there is even a link to a page to take notes.
Parker said, depending on the course, there will be a mix of professors on the screen and graphics.
As for the marketing of the product, Huschle said the company, which has begun to place ads in The Oracle, is trying to sell not just to individual students, but to universities in a sort of “wholesale” campaign.
Huschle said so far, things are running smoothly.
“Maybe the biggest surprise today is that there are no surprises,” he said.
As a part of the marketing strategy, Huschle said the company contacted what it considers the leader in distribution of distance learning material, the Public Broadcasting System. Huschle said PBS has jumped onboard with his company and is helping in the distribution process.
Parker said the hardest thing to accomplish is the first sale, both to students and to administration.
“Ultimately, it’s the students taking the courses,” Parker said. “It’s important whether (they) accept or reject them.
“The concept of giving high quality (education), that’s what’s being tested here.”
Marcelo Vera, who said he runs distance learning in the School of Mass Communications, came to listen to Parker and Huschle. He said he has some concerns about the system.
“The (premise) seems to be OK,” Vera said. “I need more in-depth (facts).
“The concern is we here at USF have distance learning courses and programs as well.”
Vera said, at first, it’s too hard to tell if the new system is worthwhile. He said he will have to put in some thought on the subject.
“Many products we have are good products,” Vera said. “Most of the capabilities (Parker and Huschle have) shown, we have here.”