With the rapid shift away from traditional print journalism, our Digital Communications and Media (DCM) Program facilities were in dire need of an update. For students to effectively hone their skills for a modern news production environment, they require specialized tools, technology and learning techniques – ones which a traditional classroom setting cannot offer.
Following along with a software tutorial at the front of a traditional classroom is limiting and, when it comes to critiquing a student’s detailed designs and videos, it’s nearly impossible to do so effectively, not to mention efficiently.
So, when college alumnus Troy Reeb (currently the Executive Vice President of Broadcast Networks at Corus Entertainment) donated $52,000 to our DCM Program, we were elated. It took some discussion before we decided the money should be allocated to update classroom TE3225, the veritable hub of the college’s longstanding student newspaper, The Endeavour.
Despite such a generous donation, we realized one of the biggest challenges to overcome in this update was cost. When we first looked to outsource the fully programmed and installed Audio/Visual (AV) systems, we received quotes for upwards of $200,000.
So, our AV Team collaborated to find a more economical solution.
By working with some existing equipment, along with a touch of ingenuity, our team designed and installed a system to meet all our needs – and for just over $35,000. Though the system does require some technical knowledge to leverage its full potential, the learner experience should be on par with a system that would cost many times more.
Unlike a traditional classroom setting which crowds learners in, this new configuration boasts an open concept layout to foster teamwork. Four bar-height tables with chairs (called pods) lift students to eye level, facilitating open dialogue and interaction between instructors and learners. Designed to support seven students (although presently, limited to three due to COVID-19 restrictions), these pods open up space in the classroom, allowing individuals to move about freely and engage with other groups.
A major component of the DCM curriculum revolves around video editing and graphic design software. This requires large monitors and resolution settings cumbersome to work with on students’ personal laptops alone.
To clear this hurdle, our team installed desktop monitors at each seat in the pod that can be switched between exhibiting information from their laptop or mirroring their instructor’s display. Because learners spend a great deal of time following along with faculty’s software tutorials, the ability to switch is paramount – and a huge step forward in the evolution of the DCM Program.
In addition to the desktop monitors, each pod provides a large display at the head of the table to mirror the instructor’s display, along with a traditional projector and screen setup. During group work or critiques, students can connect and share their screen to all other stations at the pod, which allows for in-depth collaboration not possible in most learning spaces.
Each seat is also equipped with a headphone jack where students can connect their headphones. From here, instructors can give directions through a microphone at the teaching station. This allows the instructor to demonstrate concepts like audio panning (left ear/right ear stereo effects) as well as comparing different microphone pickup patterns (narrow cardioid vs. wide omnidirectional) during lessons.
For those students who choose not to use headphones, the classroom also features a bookcase speaker system which effectively helps to address the above issues in a larger space.
Accessibility informed this classroom design upgrade from the very beginning.
While modern technology and the improved layout creates a more comprehensive learning environment as a whole, the headphone system also doubles as an assistive listening device, allowing students to minimize classroom distractions if desired.
Furthermore, we’ve also included a fifth pod to accommodate wheelchair access (or lower seating), removing even more learning barriers.
With this new design, instructor and student feedback has been positive so far. As we return to in-person classes, the AV Team will continue to work with faculty, tweaking elements and continuing to optimize the system. We expect this concept to be beneficial for many other program areas on campus, especially those utilizing software tutorials.
- Email: AV@lethbridgecollege.ca
- Phone: ext. 3353