Week 12 in Review

I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks and it was all the good things it can be when you go on a vacation to Maui, leave the phones and ipads in a drawer and spend your days boogy boarding with sea turtles.  Nonetheless, I did manage to squeeze in a couple work days last week.

Innovation Classrooms:  This year, we equipped a small classroom with a 60″ monitor and a WePresent.  Once a user has set up the WePresent on their device, it works like a dream, allowing you to walk into a room, get on the room wifi, and punch in a 4 digit code via an app.  No more cables, no more podiums, no Crestron panels, and the audio quality has been great.  The one complaint is that the 60″ monitor may be a bit small, and I find myself zooming documents to make them easier to read.

We’ve found some money in our budget to do a couple more rooms and this time we are trying out some different configurations. We are going to do another small room with a WePresent and two 60” monitors on perpendicular walls, one of them mounted on a tilt mount and the other on a swing mount. The rooms are squarish in shape and get used for a variety of teaching purposes and we think that it will be useful to have some flexibility with a monitor on the swing mount. The WePresent won’t duplicate onto 2 monitors without an add-on, but we think there is utility in having the monitors have different purposes if they are in use. The WePresent monitor setup lends itself to student use, and instructor can simply hook up to the other one.

We are also going to do a larger, bowling alley room with a 70” monitor on a tilt mount and a WePresent. We struggled with this type of room configuration—we are introducing the monitors/WePresent set up as a way of diverging from a traditional student-rows-facing-front-monitor-for-powerpoint-presentation setup.   But bowling alley rooms don’t let you do this as easily as the small, square rooms. We are going to revisit this setup and see where a second monitor should be placed, if at all.

The $ details: We are challenging ourselves to think about equipment that we can feasibly replicate across dozens of rooms. The easiest solution is to purchase and install with one vendor. But we are learning that there is considerable money to be saved if we do our own install and if we purchase the mounts through an online supplier like Monoprice. Basically, the mount savings alone across 10 rooms equal the ability to do an additional room, and the install savings are recovered across 5.

We also learned that the typical podium, projector, screen setup costs in the range of 10-12,000$. Our rooms are coming in at less than half of that and we think that they will also be easier for instructors and students to use, and be better suited to a BYOD environment. I think of our approach as an Ikea approach to classroom technology—we are trying to introduce flexibility and simplicity within an environment where refreshing the equipment won’t be a huge burden on the institution.

Video:  We’ve been watching the progress with BCnet and MediaCore closely since we have a huge need for some video management given all the activity we do with video.  The big ‘if’ is whether our little institution will be able to manage a shared service license with MediaCore, so we are going ahead with plans to get open source Kaltura loaded and tested on a server here.

Coincidently, one of our programmers mocked up a nice little app that will allow us to have students and instructors record video directly into Blackboard (via our Flash media server).  This will take a load off of our Blackboard server, and will also be a way of allowing students to record 20 minute-1 hour role plays and simulation exercises directly onto the Flash media server.  It’s a little project that provides a huge impact in solving a number of nagging process issues we’ve had around video.


  • willtmonroe

    Thanks for sharing the details of your small/large room setups, Tannis! I’ve been doing a little research around BYOD and arrangements of technology and “active learning” or other pedagogical ideas. The University of Minnesota has a nice page describing their approach here: http://www.classroom.umn.edu/projects/ALCOverview.html It helps to see the work that others are doing in similar areas. And the technology you describe sounds ideal for your purpose.

    • T Morgan

      Hi Will, thanks for the link, I actually found their evaluation report really helpful. I’d love to see more examples of smaller, lower budget rooms–our largest classroom seats 40 and most only seat 20. The classrooms are used for teaching, running simulations, role plays, and debriefing rooms. So there’s often a need to push away the tables and chairs and use digital displays.

      • willtmonroe

        I have seen their report and it looked well done but I haven’t read it yet. I work at a law school and the activities you describe (e.g., simulations, role plays) remind me that I should approach some of our clinical folks about the research I’m doing as well. The application I had in mind was actually towards an advanced legal research course which we are considering for redesign: more in-class, possibly collaborative research activities.

        Also, thanks for the weekly blog reviews. Some of my favorite blogs use this type of post and I like to see the development of reflections like these over time…also gives me ideas for my own writing (someday)!

  • Grant Potter

    That ‘WePresent’ unit looks great – thinking of getting one going in Fall 2015 in a couple classrooms at UNBC for instructors that have been looking for that functionality.

    We have been using Kaltura in Bb for the last 2 years. While I am somewhat lukewarm about Kaltura as a platform, the ability for instructors and students to submit in-browser video responses from our WordPress & Bb platform has been really useful and well received. I am heading into testing the new version of Kaltura (Iris) with both WordPress and our BbQA server in the coming week – let me know if you & your team would like to take a look around – happy to get you setup with some accounts on my QA server so you can kick the tires on things.

    • T Morgan

      Grant, that would be fantastic! I’ll put you in touch via email with the 2 Kaltura people. Also, when you get closer to setting up WePresent, let me know–we may have some tips. Because of wifi issues, we ended up setting up a specific wifi login for the room. But because we don’t have single sign on for students yet, we usually have to do quirky workarounds like that.

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