The university’s immersive telepresence classrooms provide a high quality, alternative option for running classes, meetings and events over video. The classrooms’ HD video, audio and content sharing capabilities enable instructors, staff and students to interact between two or more locations more naturally and effectively than traditional video conferencing.
There is an immersive telepresence classroom located on each campus, one in the Advanced Technology & Academic Centre (AT 5041) in Thunder Bay and the other in Simcoe Hall (OA 2020) at Orillia. The Thunder Bay room can accommodate 28 people and the Orillia room 18 people.
The classrooms are currently being piloted for a limited number of courses during the 2014-2015 fall and winter classes.
Before the start of each semester, the IDC will be running introductory workshops for instructors involved in the pilot to help familiarize them with the rooms and technology. Following the workshop, instructors should contact Technology Services Centre (TSC) Multimedia Services at 807-343-8886 (ex. 8886) to arrange an appointment to discuss their specific requirements.
The classrooms are highly flexible and can accommodate almost any distance learning and collaboration needs. There are two main ways to use the classroom.
This involves connecting our two immersive telepresence classrooms together (AT 5041 and OA 2020) or connecting one of these classrooms to another organization’s immersive telepresence system. This is the best setup for achieving a “fully immersive experience”. In this setup, audio and video is delivered in HD quality and displayed in true-to-life dimensions on large, purpose-built screens located in the rooms.
To connect AT 5041 & OA 2020
- Select ‘Favorites’ on the touch control (located on the oval boardroom table at the front of the class)
- Select “Orillia RPX” if in Thunder Bay or “Thunder Bay RPX” if in Orillia to connect rooms
To connect AT 5041 or OA 2020 to an external immersive telepresence system
- Select ‘Phone’ on the touch control
- Enter number* and connect
*You will need to get the number from the external party you are trying to connect to. Our immersive telepresence system uses Polycom RealPresence Experience (RPX) technology, and if you are connecting to an external party using the same technology, the number will be in the form of an IP address. Contact TSC Multimedia Services at 807-343-8886 (ex. 8886) if you need assistance in obtaining the number and/or to organize a test connection prior to your scheduled class or meeting.
It is also possible to connect the classrooms to traditional video conferencing systems, desktop and mobile devices as well as connect multiple sites together. TSC assistance is required for bridged connections. During your initial consultation with TSC, they will provide advice on the best setup based on your needs and coordinate the necessary logistics, including helping external participants connect to the system using CloudAxis (web-based application) or RealPresence (desktop application). Note: the room user is responsible for providing email addresses of external participants to TSC. The system can accommodate up to 103 external participants and display up to 64 simultaneously on screen at any one time.
For information on the technical requirements to connect remotely to the classrooms via a desktop computer, tablet or mobile phone, see Mobile Learner Technical Requirements
It is possible to share various types of content with in-class and external participants. Content can be shared by:
- Plugging in a laptop at the front of the classroom (bring your own or arrange to borrow a laptop via the TSC supporting ticketing system)
- Using the document camera located at the front of the classroom
- External participants using a computer or tablet can also share content with in-class participants by clicking on the ‘Share Content’ button within the CloudAxis or RealPresence applications. Note: external participants using a mobile phone are unable to share content.
For in-class participants, shared content is displayed on displays built into the tables (one for every two participants). External participants are able to see the shared content and video feed simultaneously, or they can toggle between viewing only the content or the video feed.
- To share content with participants, select the ‘Show Content’ button on the touch control.
- Run a test session (ideally with the participants you are connecting to) to get a feel for how the system works and minimize in-class issues.
- Arrive early to ensure everything is working as planned and allow enough time for any last minute technical assistance that may be required. Ask your participants to do the same to avoid delays.
- If you have external participants, you will need to consider how you wish to organize the video feed. The more external participants you display in the video feed, the smaller each participant will appear and thus clarity is reduced. During your initial consultation with TSC, they can advise you on what display configurations are available.
- Although not likely to be needed, it is helpful to have a backup plan in case you run into connection issues during a class, e.g. distributing lecture notes and readings.
Think about ways to engage your participants.
- Consider how different connection arrangements will affect interaction and communication. Connecting two immersive telepresence rooms (point-to-point) will provide an experience that makes participants in different locations feel like they are in the same room, helping make interaction more effortless and natural. However, when external participants connect to the immersive classroom using non-immersive technology (i.e. a video conferencing system, desktop or mobile device) some challenges can arise that need to be considered and accounted for, e.g. video/audio feed delays, reduced video/audio clarity, managing participants in multiple locations.
- Making good eye contact is good teaching practice in any setting. In the immersive telepresence classroom, if you sit or stand on the side of the room you will be able to more easily make regular eye contact with all participants, those in the classroom and those on screen (i.e. your external participants). Be careful not to go past the middle line of the oval boardroom table at the front of the classroom, as you will be off camera and out of sight to your external participants.
- Consider ways to introduce participants to one another, e.g. doing introductions, sharing a contact list so participants can learn each other’s names, utilize D2L collaboration tools.
- Set a protocol for participants to raise questions and provide comments.
- Regularly acknowledge and seek input from all participants, particularly external participants.
- Design activities that are inclusive of external participants to avoid them falling into a passive observation role.
- Inform external participants they have the ability to mute their microphone, where appropriate (e.g. group work).
Create an accessible learning environment.