Here are some tips for institutions wanting to implement similar solutions to take their videoconferencing to the next level.
Invest in the right technology.
Rutgers’ initiative uses seven Epson Pro L 1505UH projectors and extra-long, custom-built Da-Lite motorized screens to produce 10-foot-wide images in each classroom. Rutgers selected the Epson laser projectors because they provide vivid, crisp images and use laser technology instead of lamps. Multiple Cisco SX80 videoconferencing codecs work together to handle all communications between the rooms, and the rooms are equipped with a sound system based on Shure MXA910 ceiling array microphones and ceiling-mounted speakers so everyone can talk to each other in real time and hear everyone from both rooms clearly. Wireless technology allows students and instructors to share content from their devices and display it on the screens in the other classroom.
Plan and test the positions of the screens, projectors, and cameras.
The point is to make students in the far-end campus feel as though they are part of the class, not just watching a video. Making sure cameras, screens, projectors, and microphones are in the right spots is critical to ensuring this immersive feel.
Provide training and scale your rollout.
We train instructors how to use the rooms just before classes begin for the year and offer ongoing support to make sure they are comfortable using the equipment. Start with instructors who are familiar with videoconferencing and then expand the initiative slowly to add additional instructors. It may take time for some instructors to get used to leading a class in this manner. Once a core group is using the classrooms regularly, others will want to try it.
Think about class size and size of the projectors.
Make sure you select presentation displays that will provide images large enough for your rooms. Also, this initiative typically works best for larger classes. Rutgers has about 140 to 150 students in each classroom.
We launched our Immersive Synchronous Lecture Initiative to reduce travel time for students. It has indeed helped alleviate this pain point, but the benefits go beyond that. The initiative has also become a truly innovative way of using AV technology to connect and expand opportunities for students. It brings videoconferencing to the next level by creating an immersive, engaging environment for all.