During the second Exploring mixed mode delivery community of interest session (held 27 August), we heard from three academic teaching staff about their recent experiences of using mixed modalities in the first half of Spring session. We also heard from AVS about using the special Zoom-enabled classrooms at UTS.

Trial and error

Associate Professor Bert Bongers from TDi spoke about his mixed mode roundtable discussions held in the Design Innovation Research Centre space. Bert was keen to maintain a sense of the physical layout of the classroom. This meant showing multiple people in one call, in the same room. He also aimed to maintain the affordances of physicality in conversation such as gesture, facial, and other non-verbal cues.

Each iteration of the BCII classes required significant variations in the technical setup, particularly for audio, to find out precisely what would work for different sessions.

When I started teaching online via Zoom I very quickly discovered it’s specific limitations, as many of us did. So after figuring out Zoom, the next challenge was venturing into the mixed mode delivery – blending the two environments.

As the classes were not being held in a UTS Zoom-enabled room, Bert called on the resources of the TDi team to ensure the space could handle the level of interaction between online and on-campus students. Two large display monitors, multiple microphones and a carefully arranged speaker system were used to facilitate seamless bi-directional communication.

Students sitting in the classroom and collectively talking to other students on Zoom during Bert's mixed mode class.
Mixed-mode round table (and sofa) discussions

Unfortunately, video-conferencing tools like Zoom disrupt social and spatial awareness, diminishing many of those important non-verbal cues. Bert is considering the use of camera tracking and 360-degree video-VR as a possible solution, but this also introduces significant technical challenges. For future sessions, Bert is keen to attempt a ‘yarning’ or dialogue circle approach.

Synchrotron inspired

Next, Dr. Annette Dowd from Science spoke about her mixed-mode Optics lab partnerships. Her inspiration came from her experience working on a 24-hour remote experiment with the Synchrotron in Victoria.

Lab work is awesome, that is what so many people enroll in Science degrees for.

Usually, Optics labs don’t have any kind of physical distancing. They’ve very crowded rooms, providing the hands-on experimentation that students are looking for. To maintain this experience, students were paired up, with one student in the lab and another online. They swapped each week if possible – having a total of 3 weeks in the lab and 3 online.

How did it work in the lab and online?

One person is in the lab with a mobile phone and headset, using equipment and generating data. Their online partner joins over MS Teams, doing modelling, analysis and looking for references.

Diagram showing the devices and tools online and in-lab students use respectively for mixed mode
One of the slides Annette used to show students a new way of working together in the lab

Data is shared over Teams and where possible students use video meetings, so that instructors can drop in. As back-up students could also use another phone messaging service.

Firstly, Annette modified the experiments to accommodate only one pair of hands being onsite. Following this, Annette came up with specific activities for the online student to do so they weren’t only passively observing. For example, they could do simulation and modelling tasks to compare with the experimental data when it came through.

Students have been quite enthusiastic to come into the lab and even the digitally mediated communication was quite chatty and I was surprised by how noisy the lab became.

Challenges moving forward

Initially students struggled with the cognitive load, with so many new things thrown at them. They couldn’t simply walk into a lab and start doing experiments. If students go off track in the busy, physical lab space someone can assist them immediately. Virtually, it’s harder to know when assistance is needed.

Students had to learn to use Teams and new modelling software among all the other requirements of the labs, so there is a need to work out how to make it easier for students to come up to speed. Annette suggested that next time it might be better to start the labs with only one element and then slowly introduce different communication technologies.

How important was the video presence?

The chat was almost all audio and video. For practical reasons, such as being busy using lab equipment, students very rarely used text. However, international students permanently online did prefer to use text-based chatting, which seems to be a trend across faculties.

The key advantage of using phones was that the on-campus student could take the online person around to introduce them to the equipment, giving them a tour of the lab space.

Getting up close to the action using the mobile phone camera was awesome.


Reflections for a small class

Associate Professor Shiko Maruyama joined us in the session via a pre-recorded video to share some of his thoughts.

Shiko mentioned the importance of being in a Zoom-enabled classroom. As long as the classes were held in such a room, remote students and classroom students could hear each other well. His advice was to ensure you have received guidance from AVS first so you know when and how to choose the correct audio and video input.

I’m not sure it was worthwhile having an additional video camera unless you want to show the entire classroom.

He also experimented with a special camera loaned by AVS to be fitted above the whiteboard. This camera flattens the image and straightens distortion in order to use an actual whiteboard that online students could also see clearly.

Hot tips from AVS

The session also benefited from having the AVS team present. Heading up the presentation was Sam Johnson.

Sam highlighted the big news that Zoom-enabled classrooms have now been rolled out across around 120 venues on campus. He also delivered AVS’s top Zoom survival tips.

So what makes a Zoom-enabled classroom different?

Essentially, they make using Zoom from your classrooms a better, more seamless experience. You can now send all the built-in room sources (eg. Document camera, PC, high quality microphones) to a Zoom broadcast. The key factor for success is clear audio. Now you can put on a lapel mic, walk around the room and people both online and on-campus can hear you!

Diagram of Zoom-enabled rooms In-Room AV Switcher for mixed mode
Diagram of input and output for Zoom-enabled rooms

To find out if a room you are teaching in is Zoom-enabled, visit the AVS Roomfinder and type in your room location.

For mixed mode delivery, this is great news. A lot of the things AVS are doing are to make sure tech doesn’t get in the way of staff teaching and students participating.

Visit the Service Connect AVS Knowledge Banks to find a wealth of technical resources related to Zoom at UTS.

What can AVS Zoom support do for you?

  • ‘Nuts and bolts’ support
  • Quick phone help: 9514 2538
  • Help with equipment installed in the classroom
  • Help getting BYOD equipment though the A/V controls
  • One-on-one and virtual demonstrations
  • Loaning A/V equipment

Zoom survival tips:

  1. Use SSO log-in (also required for pre-assigned breakout rooms)
  2. Read the Knowledge Base articles and LX Resources about Zoom.
  3. Schedule a session with the LX.lab
  4. Call AVS help (9514 2538)
    • planning to use Zoom – contact LX.lab
    • in the process of using Zoom – call AVS
    • post-using Zoom – both depending on what you need

Zoom-enabled rooms also allow you to record your sessions.

What LX.lab support can do for you

The LX.lab can provide strategic support for mixed mode delivery. When you’re planning to run a mixed mode class, get in touch. It’s really important to discuss your options and work out which configuration is best for your needs. We can run one-to-one and remote consultations for you and your teaching team. LX.lab also has extensive resources on using the entire UTS learning technology ecosystem to scaffold and support mixed mode delivery.

Our LX Media Team can provide production support, loan equipment and help you design special projects like a mixed mode session.

And of course, you should test run everything before letting it into the wild.

If you’re interested in seeing the entire presentation and discussion, a recording of the session is now available on UTS’s Kaltura website.

Next session: Thursday November 19

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