Higher-ed instructors are always looking for new ways to make their courses more attractive, engaging, and convenient for students. Doing so helps institutions remain competitive and ensures they are meeting students’ needs. One way that many colleges do this is by using videoconferencing technology to connect far-away classrooms or campuses to each other to provide better access to courses.
A basic videoconference is fine, but students want a more immersive experience when they are paying to learn. That’s why Rutgers University in New Jersey used AV technology to take our videoconferencing program to the next level through our “Immersive Synchronous Lecture Initiative.”
We launched the initiative on our New Brunswick campuses to connect students in different buildings and on different campuses that are miles apart. Our university is unusually spread out; our New Brunswick students take busses between classrooms that are up to 10 miles apart. The Immersive Synchronous Lecture Initiative addresses this challenge and allows students on two different campuses to take the same lesson from the same instructor at the same time, while making it feel like they’re all together in the same room.
The tech behind the scenes
Here’s how it works. The Immersive Synchronous Lecture Initiative uses cameras and multiple high-definition, wide-screen Epson laser projectors to project a life-sized video of an instructor who is standing in Classroom A, onto a screen several miles away in Classroom B. The instructor’s image shows in Classroom B on a screen positioned in the spot where he or she would typically stand. This creates the illusion for students in Classroom B that the instructor is actually standing at the podium in their classroom.
Meanwhile, in Classroom A, the instructor can see the images of the Classroom B students, projected onto screens on the back wall, and can interact with them in real time. The cameras and screens are positioned in such a way that if the instructor points to the video image of someone in Classroom B, the student feels like the instructor is really pointing at him or her. An assistant is present in Classroom B to pass out handouts, administer exams, and make sure everything goes smoothly.