With COVID-19 still spreading throughout the world, fall semester courses will be delivered in a variety of ways — some completely online, some partially online and others with faculty on-campus while students attend both in-person and remotely. To accommodate these needs, the Reopening Committee for Classroom Technology announced updates to provide the technology needed to deliver courses in a flexible manner.

James Raber, executive director of educational technology and service management, is the chair of the reopening committee for classroom technology. Raber said the technology has already been dispersed to the main and regional campuses in stages. 

“The majority of the camera systems and microphones have arrived and are in the process of being distributed to the various campuses,” Raber said. “As of right now, the camera and microphone systems have already been deployed to a number of buildings with more in the works. Some technology, like computers, are still in the process of being fulfilled and have an estimated delivery of the third week of July.” 

Raber said he and his team addressed two key approaches for providing tech to make sure the fall semester runs smoothly — what is needed in traditional classroom instructional spaces and what is required to meet college specific needs, like labs, or performance spaces. 

“In the traditional classrooms, we are deploying a boundary microphone solution that can capture audio up to 20 feet away, as well as the Lumens DC125 camera system which can serve as both a document camera and a web camera,” he said. “For specific college level or campus needs in nonstandard spaces, we’ve been holding conversations with faculty and staff in each of the respective areas and determining solutions to accommodate needs. Needs have ranged from additional simulation mannequins to support physical distancing to custom camera solutions, to software needs. In all instructional spaces, we assessed the age of the instructor stations computers.  Any computers over four years of age were marked for refresh. Given that these computers will be handling additional duties related to video conferencing, it was important to ensure that the computing needs were considered.” 

The committee also increased the overall bandwidth for the university system to accommodate for any potential increase in internet demands as a result of the extra streaming and video conferencing on campus. 

The camera and microphone systems will plug into the computer at the instructor station, allowing instructors to deliver classes to students who are remote or in person. The university’s supported video conferencing platform for delivery is Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. The new Ladybug hardware is compatible with remote course delivery. 

Professors will also be trained to use the new technology. The training sessions will be held on July 14 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., July 16 from 9 a.m. to noon, August 4 from 9 a.m. to noon and August 5 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. The sessions will be held remotely on Zoom, and feedback and guidance will be provided by a Kent State online instructor. To register for a session, click here

“We are actively working on a training plan for faculty,” Raber said.“In the works are a variety of approaches, designed to meet the schedules and availability of any instructors interested in training.” Training is not required for faculty, but it is highly recommended.

There will be video tutorials on www.kent.edu/keeponteaching, print materials in the classroom and the committee will be providing live [virtual] training sessions to faculty who would prefer a face-to-face experience. 

These technology upgrades and enhancements are being funded by the CARES act. 

“Cost is still being assessed as we are still working on understanding needs for the university,” Raber said. 

To find out more about the new classroom technology and to stay up to date, visit https://www.kent.edu/onlineteaching/new-classroom-technology and https://www.kent.edu/onlineteaching/reopening-committee-classroom-technology.

Contact Ciana White at cwhite92@kent.edu.

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