BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo School of Management
and the Not For Profit Resource Center, an initiative of the United
Way of Buffalo and Erie County, are partnering to help local
community service agencies through an innovative new educational
technology, Digital Access.
Belmont Shelter Corp., The Center for Hospice and Palliative
Care, Child Care Resource Network, Compass House, Consumer Credit
Counseling Service of Buffalo, Economic Self Sufficiency Coalition
of Western New York, Every Person Influences Children (EPIC),
Exotic Cat Rescue, Girl Scout Council of Buffalo and Erie County
and Southeast Works are among the agencies that are or will be
making use of this new technology.
"Digital Access is our name for a process known generically as
course casting," says Professor Natalie Simpson, academic director
of Digital Access in the UB School of Management. She explains that
with course casting, a conventional presentation is captured from
the attendee's point of view, to make that same experience
available to a wider audience. "It's a noninvasive process," says
Simpson, "There are no cameras in your face to disrupt the flow of
information or distract the interaction of the participants."
In a new and very exciting application of the Digital Access
process, health and human services agencies are participating in a
program called "Community Access" using UB's Digital Access
classrooms to record their training and educational sessions.
Almost immediately after each session is recorded, it can be viewed
online via UB's streaming server and linked to the organization's
Most not-for-profit organizations do not have access to
course-casting equipment and buying it is cost prohibitive. Through
Community Access, however, organizations are able to use UB's
Digital Access and the faculty expertise that goes with it,
enabling them to reduce costs and eliminate inconsistencies in the
delivery of education and training sessions to service recipients,
volunteers and staff.
For example, instead of holding the same training session each
time a new volunteer joins their group, Compass House has
volunteers view the training online. "Prior to Community Access,
our options were to wait until we had a small group of volunteers
to train, which left us little flexibility in scheduling," says
Joan Dutchess Freidson, program director of Compass House. "Or we
had to train them one-on-one, which was very labor intensive."
Tara Vogel, chief operating officer of Consumer Credit
Counseling Service of Buffalo, says that Community Access helped
her organization eliminate a great deal of redundancy. "For certain
types of counseling sessions, 50 percent of the material is the
same from one client to the next," she says. "With Community
Access, we have recorded that portion of our training, and our
clients view it in a video format. This allows us to spend more
time with clients one-on-one discussing the issues that are
specific to them."
The benefits cut across several areas, according to Vogel.
"Community Access has not only created consistency in our
presentations," she says. "It also has reduced agency expenses and
increased productivity of the counseling staff."
Terri Flaherty, housing programs manager at Bemont Shelter
Corp., said Community Access has enabled her organization to expand
who they serve and how they serve them.
"Being a not-for-profit can limit you in your ability to use the
latest technology to enhance the services you provide your
clients," she says. "We've been able to cut down on the number of
hours we put into training and seminars without reducing their
quantity or quality. It's been a great time saver and a great
asset. We can't wait until the next session so that we can take
advantage of this opportunity again"
Several noteworthy features make Digital Access different from
just videotaping a session. "When viewing a session captured
through Digital Access, you get an interesting sense of intimacy
because of the camera frame size," Simpson explains. "There is
relatively no distance between the viewer and the close-up view of
the presenter. Rather than feeling like they are watching something
from the back of a large room, viewers enjoy the comfortable
illusion of a smaller space."
Another key feature of Digital Access is the viewer's control.
"In addition to being able to watch a session when and where they
wish, viewers can run the presentation at their own pace," says
Simpson. "They can pause it, take notes, slow it down or repeat it
as necessary. They are in charge."
Joe Roccisano, director of the Not For Profit Resource Center,
works with the School of Management to identify agencies that could
benefit from Community Access. "The unique and innovative nature of
Community Access has made this collaboration absolutely
extraordinary in its ability to help our not-for-profit agencies,"
The pilot project was started with two organizations, Consumer
Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo and Compass House. In the next
session, 18 representatives from eight organizations attended, and
many already are using the process in various ways. Scheduling for
the third session is in progress and there is already a waiting
Cynthia Shore, assistant dean for corporate and community
relations in the UB School of Management, says that Community
Access reflects the leadership role that the School of Management
has taken in UB's mission to be an active supporter of Western New
York's non-for-profit community.
To view a sample of a digital video proceeding, visit http://uwbec.org/notforprofitDAL.htm
and click "on-line demonstration."
The Wall Street Journal ranks the UB School of Management 10th
in the nation among schools with strong regional recruiting bases.
In addition, BusinessWeek ranks the school as one of the country's
top 5 business schools for the fastest return on MBA investment,
and Forbes cites it as one of the best business schools in the U.S.
for the return on investment it provides MBA graduates. For more
information about the UB School of Management, visit http://mgt.buffalo.edu.