Dipping in to the Digital Classroom 

Last Thursday (24th January) a group of RAU academics and IT staff took a trip down to the London Jisc office to see a digital classroom in action. This was an early preview of the Sticky Campus tour that is about to get underway.

The RAU were involved in the Digital Classroom project back in 2017 and two of our academics (Anne Stevenson and Rachael Foy) authored chapters in Creating the Digital Campus: Active Learning Spaces and Technology.

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Carl Fry (Jisc), Rachael Foy, Geraint Coles and Alun Dawes (RAU) try out the new digital classroom (Photo courtesy of Anne Stevenson)

Yesterday’s set up is an evolution of the previous classroom. As Senior Lecturer Rachael Foy explains: “The kit they are using is Barco We Connect plus tables and screens. The digital classroom offers very similar functionality to the previous incarnation but is simpler to use. It is accessed via a web browser so there is no need to download an app, making it more accessible – and it works on any device. The classroom is arranged so that there is a table (in this case seating 6) connected to a screen. You connect your device with the screen at your table and can share your display, as can anyone else who is also connected. Each screen table can also share their screen with the main screen and to other tables so that all the room can see the same thing.  It is fantastic for collaboration and group working. What’s new about this set up is that it is possible (network, kit and configuration allowing) for other users outside of the physical room to connect at the same time, allowing truly remote working and maximising access. Anything that has an HTML output can be fed into the system so, for example, it is possible for live data collection to take place and be streamed into the classroom, which offers huge potential.

The RAU hopes to be able to do some more experimenting fairly soon. A representative from Barco has kindly agreed to set up a demo class which we will be able to access as remote users. This will enable us to see what the experience is like for those accessing remotely, and how easy/reliable etc. it is to use.

We are all very excited about the potential the Digital Classroom has to offer to all our students.  The students studying within traditional course structures will reap the benefit of more collaborative and active learning sessions, and the distance learners (such as those on the new Catalyst programmes) will have a genuinely inclusive experience. Plus, when they are here for their intensive residentials, they will be able to use the same facilities to support problem solving, group work and programme management activities on campus within and outside of timetabled session.  For professional courses, well, it sets a gold standard that we are keen to exploit. We also have plans to embed some of this new functionality on site at the new Swindon Cultural Heritage Centre.

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