Traditionally medical specialists attended seminars organized by clinical university departments of the K.U.Leuven Medical Faculty. However due to increasing travel and traffic problems the Pentalfa project was initiated in an effort to replace face-to-face seminars. We applied ISDN-videoconferencing technology to interconnect the video and sound signals of the different sites in real time. In all sites the session could be followed on two screens. On one screen, either the speaker/moderator or person involved in dialogue at a remote site could be seen or whatever else was being sent via videoconference. On the second one, which was linked to a multimedia computer, digitized images are projected. A voting system was used to interconnect all sites and allowed the participation in the various voting opportunities, which occurred during each session. For each session, a topic within a specific discipline was chosen and treated in a multidisciplinary way. The Pentalfa project was initially planned for a period of 3 years. During each academic year, 2 to 3 periods of 8-9 sessions each were organized (total of 74 session). A questionnaire, completed with open questions, was given to all participants (over three years 13 489 participants). 28.2 % of the questionnaires were returned. We reached 64.6 % male and 35.4% female participants with the program. The percentage female participants was higher at the central than at the guest sites. The mean age of the participants was 37.7 years. Male participants were older than female. At the central location the mean age was lower than at the guest locations. The percentage female participants decreased in the older age groups. Timesaving was an important goal for starting up the project. Nearly 90% of the public at the guest sites said they saved time by attending the session. The averaged time saving per participant in these guest locations increased from 99 min in the first year to 145 min in the third year. This emphasizes the growing mobility problems of our society. Globally, participants were satisfied with the pedagogical approach used in Pentalfa. More than 55 % of the participants found the Pentalfa session easier than classical seminars. Participants at the guest sites and older participants had a more positive appreciation than the average. In the evaluation we found that satisfaction about the technology was very high. The very excellent appreciation of the quality of the image, even in the absence of a lecturer, indicates that the concept of using 3 ISDN (6 lines) connections is sufficient for long-distance education The global cost per participant at the guest locations was 44.5 euro/h broadcasting and their virtual saving was 64 euro/h. More than 85 % of the participants at the guest sites stated that they would no longer go to Leuven (the central location) for these sessions if they were to be organized in a traditional face-to-face manner, mostly due to time and/or traffic. In order to come to a sufficient result for long-distance education via videoconferences from the participants, a lot of efforts are required. Once all those problems are resolved, this medium seems to be very suitable as an alternative for the increasing mobility- and accompanying time problems The experience obtained with Pentalfa, will be used for other aspects of the medical service such as “second opinion” or “Telemedicine”.

, ,
The New Educational Benefits of ICT in Higher Education
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Himpens, B. (2004). Postgraduate Continuing Medical Education via Videoconferencing at the K.U.Leuven in Belgium: An Evaluation of Pentalfa. In The New Educational Benefits of ICT in Higher Education. Retrieved from