Best practices for instruction in a multi-campus course format

To better accommodate students' busy schedules, Bucks County Community College introduced a multi-campus classroom format

Additionally, the online course space is especially helpful if one campus closes due to inclement weather while the other two remain open. A pedagogically oriented understanding of teaching with video conferencing technology improves the experience of the students and helps faculty to develop approaches to teaching in student-centered, open, and flexible environments.

Faculty and students need to feel comfortable in this unfamiliar format
Faculty set the stage for the classroom. If the faculty member feels comfortable and confident teaching via video conferencing to two or three classrooms, the students feel comfortable and confident interacting in the environment too. In order to build the faculty member’s comfort level and confidence, prior to the start of the course, faculty experience the space and the process of connecting one campus location to the other two. They can see themselves on the camera, walk around the room, and ask questions about the physical set-up of each of the three spaces. During the pedagogical training, faculty receive guidance and encouragement to spend a lot of time breaking the ice. Requiring students to speak to each other across campus locations immediately at the beginning of class helps to build their comfort level.

IT staff need to monitor the audio/visual
Faculty should not feel hindered by the technology. However, the learning curve to understanding all the potential options for using audio/visual broadcasting technology is steep. Often, faculty want freedom to move around the room, break students into groups, or conduct a class discussion; they may even want projected content sharing from any campus location to the other two. These typical classroom activities require manipulation of audio/visual content. IT staff remotely manipulate the content feeds from each campus location using an iPad that can simulate the controls of any of the three multi-campus rooms.

Each of the classrooms is equipped with identical IP dialing video conferencing codecs, HD cameras, microphones, and interactive whiteboards. In addition, all three rooms have large screen monitors in the front and back to encourage the natural interaction that students and instructors expect in a traditional classroom setting. All of this equipment is connected through a video-switching system that allows IT staff to remotely control all of the rooms.

Consistent evaluation of the format by all stakeholders is essential
Students, faculty, and IT staff evaluate their experiences in the multicampus format at the end of each semester. Each perspective provides valuable insight. The feedback from each stakeholder results in improvements to the technology, pedagogical training, and classroom design. Faculty involved in the implementation and evaluation of multi-campus classes span various academic disciplines. Identifying and presenting the shared experiences of these faculty members broadens the scope of our collective understanding regarding our effectiveness in delivering quality distance education opportunities to our students.

Future directions
Bucks County Community College will continue to assess the experience and satisfaction of instructors and students in this format. We will also evaluate the course scheduling to identify additional courses to run in this format. Ultimately, we could equip additional classroom spaces to connect across campus locations. By using the multi-campus classroom format, we will continue to provide students with learning opportunities convenient to their schedules to facilitate their success and achievement of their academic goals.

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