Technology Connects Classes from all Campuses
Technology similar to video conferencing for meetings is being used at Kent State to teach classes to multiple campuses simultaneously. Known as “Zoomrooms,” these classrooms are equipped with technology so that students and instructors at multiple locations can interact as if they were all in the same room.
Each Zoomroom features two 75-inch screens in the front of the classroom that show the remote locations, or what the instructor wants to share from his or her computer (e.g. a document, slide presentation, video, etc.). Students can also share video and audio from their phones and/laptops.
In the back of each room, two monitors reproduce the exact content that is in the front. This allows the instructor to address the classroom in a traditional format. Instructors can also record each class and distribute the video for later viewing.
Multiple microphones are on at all times so that students and instructors can talk in a “normal” voice and still be heard at all locations.
This past semester was the first time the technology has been used on regional campuses, after nearly a year of research and set-up that connected all campuses. The project was spearheaded by Clayton Gellatly, manager of information technology for the Columbiana County campuses.
“There are similar set-ups at other campuses, but we have the best,” he said. “We visited multiple sites and looked at several other systems when designing ours. We kept the good ideas and avoided what did not work. All Kent State regional campuses are connected with this technology.”
Gellatly explained that the term “Zoomroom” is actually the brand name that the company, Zoom, gave to is conferencing system. The Zoomroom technology is a key component to the Kent State system.
As with any new technology, there were some minor glitches when the system was first being used, but students and instructors worked through them and now seem much more comfortable with the various pieces of technology.
The Zoomrooms provide students with access to classes that are not taught on their campuses, so this is one option for the students to get take a class that they may otherwise need to take online or to drive to another regional campus to take.
“If a class does not meet minimum enrollment, it can be canceled,” Gellatly noted. “By using Zoomrooms, we can offer the class on multiple campuses and preventing it from being canceled. This benefits the student and the university system. The ultimate goal is to have every major available on every campus to meet the needs of every student.”
On the Columbiana County campuses this past semester, the Zoomroom was used to teach economics, psychology and medieval English.
“Any class can be taught in a Zoomroom,” Gellatly said. “The rooms are set up so that the instructors can use very little technology, or as much as he or she wants.”
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Photo: Dr. Omid Bagheri, assistant professor of economics, teaches a class from the Salem Campus Zoomroom and is connected to students from the Geauga and Ashtabula campuses. He also uses the Zoomroom on the East Liverpool Campus.