Audio and video solutions for the classroom

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    • #742
      Brian BeattyBrian Beatty
      Keymaster

      Most HyFlex-enabled classrooms include video and audio capture capability to connect a synchronous stream (web conference) for the students. And even when synchronous students are not part of the HyFlex design being used, the audio and video stream from the classroom can be used to capture classroom content for later use by asynchronous students (and all other students as well).

      For those who’ve used audio and video in the classroom for a while, many have found that the audio quality is most important for students, even more so than video quality. When the audio quality for synchronously connected students is poor, they cannot follow the class very well. When the audio being captured in the classroom has gaps or is of low quality, the asynchronous students cannot find much value in listening to the class discussions that have been recorded.

      And perhaps just as important for audio and video from the classroom going out, is the audio and video coming in when screen for the students are part of the classroom experience. Synchronous online students have to be seen and heard for them to engage effectively with other students and with the instructor and with class activities.

      The technologies we use do not have to be complicated or expensive, but they do have to be effective in supporting aural and visual communication channels.

      If you are teaching HyFlex at your school, what do you use?

    • #1335
      Nicholas YnamiNicholas Ynami
      Participant

      Hello Dr. Beatty,

      I worked as a Classroom Technology Technician helping set up learning spaces for a private urban university. What I learned was that the HyFlex classrooms were designed to follow almost a similar format as the Zoom Rooms or video conferencing rooms. In small video conferencing rooms, there is usually a camera, a screen, a speaker, a microphone and steady internet connection. Much like these video conferencing rooms, a HyFlex classroom has the same audio visual components, with varying amounts of each of those components (for example, multiple cameras and microphones).

      The HyFlex classrooms with the most sophisticated audio visual equipment that I have helped set up usually have multiple echo 360 cameras that follow the speaker, a 5k lumen projector with automatic drop down screen, as well as multiple built-in ceiling microphones and speakers throughout the room. In these sophisticated and expensive classrooms, everything is turned on and off, controlled, and regulated through a control panel in the front of the classroom (usually on the professor’s podium or lectern). These classrooms do not fall short of output quality, where the class recordings and live remote sessions are clear in terms of video and sound. Usually the bad quality could be a result of the campus network or on the equipment of the endpoint user (the remote learner), who may have unsteady internet or a device that can not receive high definition content.

      Some classrooms are not equipped to handle HyFlex, so the university has provided the professors with a zoom kit, which consists of an external usb webcam, a tripod, a usb microphone, and a computer headset. These kits are portable and included in a bag, so they can be used in any classroom. However, unlike the sophisticated HyFlex classrooms, the HyFlex kits do not have such high resolution or quality, which is dependent on practically portable equipment. Other recommended but optional equipment that can be included in the HyFlex kits is a lapel or lavaliere microphone for better sound and a document camera or a usb tablet to annotate.

      To maximize or better the quality due to the shortcomings of provided audio visual equipment, the university has provided recommendations. On the topic of low quality sound output, the professor can use a battery powered voice amplifier that is a lapel microphone or headset microphone connected to a mini speaker that the professor can wear on the hip or belt. This is especially recommended in places where masks are required indoors, because the masks tend to mute or muffle the voice. A voice amplifier can communicate to the video microphone more clearly than not having one if a mask is worn. On the topic of low video quality, most departments have invested in better higher quality webcams for their professors since the webcams provided by the Classroom Technology division were not sufficient for some professors. Unfortunately, video and sound quality can mainly be alleviated with more spending and investment.

      In my opinion, the underlying issue is not the audio visual equipment but the training of using the equipment. If a professor is equipped with the most expensive and highest quality HyFlex classroom and does not know how to properly use the equipment, technical issues will put off students from attending and paying attention regardless. To better the training, the university has offered a trial period at the beginning of the semester, where HyFlex classroom navigators can show the professors how to use the equipment and support them until they can manage on their own. Therefore, training and support are crucial to the usage of successfully and optimally using audio visual equipment in a HyFlex classroom.

      • #1382

        Hi Dr. Beatty,

        I agree with Nick. I don’t have any experience with teaching online course thus if I need to teach any online or HyFlex course to my student I would definitely need professional training. Besides that Audio and video of the course is very important for the asynchronous as well as other students. If we’re making in online course in my school I would definitely get help from video technician’s support and idea to prepare the higher quality online class.

      • #1384
        Brian BeattyBrian Beatty
        Keymaster

        Baska, thanks for your thought on this. I think two of the most important things institutions need to do to support HyFlex rollout, even in small cases, are 1) provide training for faculty so they know how to teach well (or can learn to teach well but are prepared to start now with some skills) and 2) prepare the technology environment for easy and effective capture of AV to support student learning and engagement. There are many other things that a good HyFlex implementation needs for the long term, but if you can start with supplying these 2, you are likely to have a successful start and you can address additional needs as you go.

      • #1391
        Catherine BallardCatherine Ballard
        Participant

        I agree with Nick as someone who has taught hyflex (sometimes without any warning or prep time). I have been thrust into the world of AV and Zoom and have had to learn as I go–improv! Luckily, as someone who is familiar with the technology used at my school, I have managed to run a successful Hy-Flex classroom in the past. Hopefully there will be more planning for synchronous, online, and asynchronous students in the future.

    • #1336
      Brian BeattyBrian Beatty
      Keymaster

      Nick, thanks for sharing the details of your institution’s approach. You make a very good point about the faculty training and preparation to use the equipment being as important as, or even more important than, the quality of the AV equipment itself. We need both to be prepared to support HyFlex. Good equipment, and adequate skill to use it well!

    • #1386
      Siwei LuoSiwei Luo
      Participant

      Hi Dr.Beatty,

      Thanks for sharing and describing how asynchronous and synchronous lessons work in SFSU! Just like what you mentioned, audio could be even more important than videos for students who are trying to follow along. This makes me think about the trending concept of metaverse, where the user can be in a virtual environment and do all sorts of things as if it’s the real world. For example, one can make conversation to another user in a virtual classroom setting. There hasn’t been a complete metaverse project being put out by mainstream tech companies yet, but I cannot help thinking about all the possibilities it could bring to education, especially distance education in either synchronous or asynchronous setting.

      Sincerely,
      Siwei

    • #1549
      Kim GravesKim Graves
      Participant

      I am in the process of outfitting four classrooms with equipment to support HyFlex. Currently working with facilities and IT to install. We have one room up and running and the remainder should be working within the next couple of weeks. I like the discussion here. It was really important to me to make it as easy as possible for anyone to walk into the room and be able to use it so I set it up as if the instructor was at home conducting a synchronous class, just with a larger speaker/microphone and more powerful camera.

      An HDL 300 soundbar from Nureva connects to the podium computer via usb so is literally the default input/output. Instructors don’t even have to think about it. The Aver PTZ camera has a two step process to connect (through the network) that I haven’t been able to automate but once that is done the camera connects to zoom just as if it was a built in or monitor-mount camera. We already had a two monitor podium computer to tap into, with a front room display that mirrors one of the monitors. Now the instructor just has to share that same monitor screen in zoom for the remote students and they see exactly what the in-person students do.

      The camera has many features, but I’ve just set it up for instructors to easily switch between three main zones and turn the motion tracking on/off. The zones are: the instructor podium, the front room display (a large Samsung TV), and a whiteboard.

      Currently in the process of training fellow faculty members to use the equipment. (After the first of these sessions, one of my colleagues exclaimed “Oh, this is much easier than I thought it was going to be.” and proceeded to ask me how I listed hyflex courses for registration so I’m taking that as a good sign.) These classrooms are for 20-30 people. For the remainder of the rooms, the college has a set of mobile carts that can be wheeled to the back of any room to broadcast synchronously. It is a computer with a large display and a combined camera/soundbar mounted at the top. The instructor logs in to zoom on the cart AND the podium computer if the podium computer will be used for screen sharing.

    • #1551
      Brian BeattyBrian Beatty
      Keymaster

      Kim, thanks for sharing your plans. What a nice comment to hear, “Oh, this is much easier than I thought it was going to be.” I occasionally hear that from faculty planning their first HyFlex course and after a few days of planning acknowledge that just maybe it isn’t going to take them as much extra work as they feared. Ok, so maybe they don’t say “much easier”, but they do leave believing they can do this without an extra six hours in their workweek.

      Kim, could you share some pictures of the setup you use in the HyFlex rooms and the cart used for other rooms? that would be helpful!

      Brian

      • #1573
        Kim GravesKim Graves
        Participant

        It seems the forum is text only so here is the url to a google doc with the pictures I took as we were testing the system (please excuse the dangling cables at the back):
        https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gHqS-emvIISJU14DTRTON-u9SVEr__DoSqFsdaQR66I/edit?usp=sharing

        This is a classroom that seats 30 (with computers built into the desks). I would call it a computer lab but all of our classrooms have computers here šŸ™‚

        I don’t have a photo of the cart on hand so I will aim to take one next time I see it in a classroom.

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