In preparation for the Fall semester, each classroom received a variety of technology components to help facilitate SMUFlex. The focus during the initial upgrade was to ensure high-quality video and audio for the instructor, whiteboard capabilities and zoom. As fall classes began, the need for audience microphones became more critical in providing an enhanced experience for the remote students particularly in classes that rely heavily on discussion. Several temporary solutions were deployed in a few classrooms to help provide this functionality. The University has allocated additional funding to purchase technology for 62 classrooms to improve the online experience for students this spring.
There are two main devices that are being deployed: the Owl and the DTEN. The Owl is a small conferencing device that has a 360-degree camera, speaker and microphone. It is ideal for smaller rooms and allows the faculty to designate which option in zoom they wish to use. For example, the smaller classrooms may already have built-in ceiling microphones which will offer a better audio quality than the Owl. Therefore, the faculty can select to use only the camera to display video of the in-person class while using the built-in ceiling microphones. These features can be easily toggled within zoom to provide the best experience for remote students. Because the Owl is very portable, we have ordered a few additional devices that have not been assigned to a classroom. If you are teaching in a small to medium size room and rely heavily on discussion, please contact your Academic Technology Service Director to discuss the feasibility of deploying an Owl for your use.
The DTEN is a display with an integrated microphone, speakers and cameras. These will be placed at the front of the classroom to augment the existing technology in the space. Faculty will start the room AV as normal and join the zoom meeting from the podium computer. However, they will NOT join audio within that zoom meeting. Instead, they enter the meeting ID on the DTEN display. The DTEN will then provide video of the classroom, microphones for both the faculty and in-person students, and speakers for the room. Faculty teaching in these spaces will no longer need to use the lavalier microphone. The DTEN also serves as an electronic whiteboard within zoom.
Beginning on November 30, OIT will begin deploying this new technology to the designated classrooms. Overview videos for both devices are being created and will be posted on the project website by January 4. Instruction sheets will be created and posted in each room and online. The Academic Technology Directors will also host a series of training sessions in January to ensure faculty know how to use this technology. If you are planning to continue using your assigned classroom following the Thanksgiving break, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Our goal is to install most of the equipment prior to the winter holidays.
In addition to the new technology, several upgrade projects were delayed this summer due to the increased scope of work to prepare all rooms. These delayed projects are being scheduled for the winter break. To view the list of rooms that will receive the Owl, DTEN, or other upgrades, please visit smu.edu/OIT/Governance/CurrentProjects/WinterUpgrades.