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New Classroom Technology on Campus

Date Posted May 3, 2017

Have you ever heard students complaining about having to travel off their main campus for just one class? A large percentage of our students have a similar gripe which is why RU decided to create the Synchronous Lecture Halls.  Currently there are two of these learning spaces on the New Brunswick campus, located in the Wright Auditorium and in Loree Hall.  The two spaces are referred to respectively as the Throw Room (where the instructor is physically located) and the Catch Room (the space receiving the audio/video feed).  

Picture of the Synchronous Immersive Classroom in Presentation Mode.

Paul Hammond, assistant vice chancellor for technology and instruction, demonstrating the Synchronous Immersive Classroom in Presentation Mode. The screens behind him are displaying the audience in Loree Hall.

Careful thought went into every aspect of these spaces: from the texture of the walls, to the color scheme of the room, to the type of technology required to make the experience as engaging as possible for the students.  From the instructor’s perspective, he/she always has a view of the students in both spaces as well as a view of their slideshow and a confidence screen to make sure they are always in the camera frame.  From the student’s perspective in the Catch Room, the high audio quality allows them to hear the instructor even if there is other ambient noise.   The large screens showing the content, as well as their peers in the other space, really does lend an intimate feel to a classroom which may have up to 275 students enrolled.  Even if a student sits in the last row of one of these spaces they are still half the distance from the instructor that they would be if they were sitting in the last row in a traditional lecture hall.  This proximity to the instructor can make a huge difference to a learner.

View of the monitors at the back of the Synchronous Immersive Classrooms.

View of the back of the room, displaying (left to right) the presenter’s confidence monitor, Catch Room audience, Presentation, other half of the Catch Room audience.

Ideally, the instructor would split time between the two spaces so that all students would get the same amount of face-to-face time.  Yet students are free to attend class in either space, thus allowing a student who is willing to travel to always be in the instructor’s presence.  The Catch Room’s classroom management can be facilitated by a TA or PTL.  According to Paul Hammond, there are currently funds available through the Strategic Fund for the departments to hire synchronous lecture fellows to help facilitate activities in the Catch Room. 

Paul Hammond and David Wyrtzen (on screen) demonstrating the audience's view in the Catch Room.

Paul Hammond and David Wyrtzen (on screen) demonstrating the audience’s view in the Catch Room.

There are big plans for these spaces.  Right now, the classrooms are able to broadcast out to a maximum of three distinct spaces which would allow instructors to reach more students.  There are even talks about eventually partnering with other Big 10 schools that have the same technology!  Currently, one of these classrooms is under construction on the Camden campus and there are plans to add Synchronous Lecture Halls to the Newark campus as well as to expand the number of classrooms here on the New Brunswick campus.

Jeniffer is one of the Senior Instructional Designers here at OIRT. Her background includes Instructional Design & Technology, K-12 education, and Field Biology. Her other areas of interest include: Accessibility and Adaptive Learning Systems.

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