Tech used in the classroom to allow student to attend remotely

Whether it’s the research, the projects or the intellectual hurdles, students expect to be academically challenged on the path to their program’s completion.

These challenges are anticipated, but some sneak up on us, some are more difficult than others.

Due to a medical issue that prevented one student at the Hamilton campus of Brock University from attending required classes, an alternative method of delivering the classroom experience was required to ensure the student could attend and complete the coursework.

Kyle Tuck, Brock systems administrator and technician, and Dino Giancola, media and AV technician, were asked by the Hamilton campus co-ordinator to investigate a way to enable the student to participate in classes from home via video conference.

“There were two significant challenges because the classes in the program differ significantly from a lecture format,” said Tuck. “First, the instructors in the program commonly move around the classroom and second, students frequently break into small collaborative working groups during class.”

With this in mind, Tuck thought about using a tool called Swivl.

In 2013 at the Florida Educational Technology Conference (recently renamed to the Future Educational Technology Conference), Tuck learned of the motorized stand – rotating 360 degrees and tilting both forward and backward – upon which a tablet or smartphone can be placed.

The base follows a tracker that is worn by the instructor and has a wireless microphone integrated into it. While perfect in one way, Swivl, originally designed for lesson capture, lacked the ability for a remote participant to communicate in a video conference. But Tuck had a solution.

“We were able to enable two-way communication with the Swivl by using audio adapter cables, along with an iPad running Lifesize Video,” said Tuck.

After a few weeks of learning via the innovative design from Tuck and Giancola, the student was able to return to class without missing a beat.

“It was an incredible system – it’s not what I expected at all,” said the student.

One of the concerns with this system was whether it would be effective for small group participation.

“They were really conscientious in the group work to repeat something,” said the student. “The rotation was really cool.”

The cables used to enable the two-way video conference did pose some challenges but were necessary to provide the appropriate degree of interaction.

“We wanted to make the setup completely wireless, but we had to compromise for a couple of reasons,” said Tuck. “We needed to use external speakers, and the student had classes scheduled for extended periods. The batteries in the equipment would not have lasted all day.”

Although nothing can ever truly replicate the in-class experience for a student, the Swivl option was a good alternative to accommodate the student.

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