The high-definition (HD) technology that has significantly improved television viewing for many will soon be the standard for online classes at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The first video classroom with HD capability began live streaming distance education courses earlier this year.
“This improved technology really helps distance students feel like they’re in the classroom,” says Nathan Weaver, video production specialist at Missouri S&T’s Video Communications Center (VCC). “When they join a class discussion, it sounds like they’re right there in the room.” Distance students can interact using either a telephone or a headset plugged into their computers at home, or while on the go, using smart phones or iPods.
Located in Toomey Hall on the Missouri S&T campus, the classroom has four large-screen monitors and four speakers suspended from the ceiling. The student desks and the podium have microphones, and the instructor wears a wireless mic.
The instructor can share all content, such as presentations, documents, websites and other programs using WebEx on the podium computer. A Wacom interactive computer monitor, paired with Microsoft’s OneNote software, allows the instructor to write lecture notes and work through formulas that can be exported into a PDF and made available online. A digital overhead sends crisp views of handouts and other resources to students’ monitors.
Each video classroom is equipped with a control room where one or two video production specialists supervise the audio and visual side of the live production. They are also available to assist distance students, should they need any technical support.
Weaver believes these online courses are better than a normal class because students have complete access to archived lectures, via Windows Media and WebEx. “Even students that were there in class can review the sessions,” he says. Upon request, some lectures can also be downloaded to students’ iPods. Archived classes can be viewed online.
Missouri S&T currently has 12 video classrooms. Three are in the process of HD upgrades, which are expected to be completed by the fall 2010 semester.
More information about Missouri S&T’s distance and continuing education program is available online or call 573-341-6222.