Veterinary students are to have their education supplemented with recorded lectures on multimedia CD-Roms. The initiative is sponsored by the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company Intervet UK and led by Mark Holmes of Cambridge Veterinary School.
Dr Holmes conceived the idea in response to funding shortages in veterinary education and a scarcity of specialist lecturers.
The first two titles were launched this week and will go out to all final-year students at Britain's veterinary colleges. The software reproduces traditional lectures authentically by playing audio and video footage of lecturers, preserving their gesticulations, with synchronised slideshows and a scrolling transcript.
David Sutton, head of veterinary services at Intervet UK, said: "We are frequently asked to give lectures, particularly on topics such as poultry, for which there are a shortage of lecturers. We do our best, but sometimes, like universities, we just don't have sufficient staff resources."
Intervet plans to follow up its first two CD-Roms on cardiology and sheep abortion by releasing two new titles a year.
Iain McCormick of the Association of Veterinary Students welcomed the system. "It fills the gaps really well; especially for the subjects they've chosen, because they involve a lot of overhead projections," he said.
"The chance to be able to run over them again and really make best use of them is a great idea. The software seems very user friendly, too."
Mark Johnston, a practising vet, pointed out the usefulness of Intervet's sheep abortion CD-Rom as a recap for qualified vets, unable to attend regular lectures.