Classroom instruction has been turned upside down this year, shifting from 100% in-person to 100% online. As we return to the Hilltop for Summer 2, we are anticipating yet another transition where instruction occurs in both online and face-to-face modalities simultaneously. Pedagogically, this will require a good bit of flexibility for faculty. The classroom technology to support this hybridized approach is also very different and complex.
The AV team began reviewing various technology solutions that could be installed in classrooms to prepare for this new environment. The goal is to provide a classroom environment that enables faculty to teach in a traditional, face-to-face, manner utilizing as many of the attributes of the classroom as possible, while also providing an equivalent experience over Zoom to remote students. Technologies ranged from simple, affordable web cameras to more expensive integrated cameras and audio options. With limited financial resources and dwindling equipment stock available for order, a plan was compiled to address the nearly 250 classrooms currently scheduled for Fall 2020.
Among the solutions are ceiling-mounted microphones or lavalier microphones for audio. These will be installed to optimize audio for the instructor—allowing the instructor to move freely in the front of the classroom while maintaining consistent audio quality for remote participants. Video inputs will range from webcams, mounted cameras, high-quality whiteboard cameras, or video conferencing type units. For areas that may require a bit more flexibility, there will be several document cameras, flexible web cameras, and other tech gadgets to help meet the instructional needs.
As you might imagine, equipping several hundred spaces in a matter of a few weeks is a daunting task. There are also additional facilities that may be used to allow social distancing within a classroom. This means revisions to the plan or changes to the scope of work will occur throughout the summer. As always, instructions, online videos, and in-person training will be provided prior to the start of the semester. Updates will also be provided throughout the summer on the classroom project website at smu.edu/OIT/Governance/CurrentProjects/ClassroomUpgrades