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Professor teaching in hybrid classroom

Hybrid Classroom Project

Bentley Hybrid Learning

Hybrid learning at Bentley University is not a new concept. In fact, we have been delivering courses in this format for 20 years. The hybrid model we adopted was one where students can choose to participate and engage in real-time on-campus class sessions, in-person or remotely via Zoom.  The added technology infrastructure in the traditional classroom and the ‘white-glove service’ support placed around this model, ensured that students received an enhanced learning experience. Prior to the pandemic, 15 of our 69 classrooms were equipped with technologies like auto tracking-cameras, 85-inch smartboards, ceiling microphones, and a large LCD display positioned on the back wall for faculty to view remote participants.

Technology Infrastructure Before Pandemic

  • 85-inch Smartboard for digital whiteboard and annotation

  • Tracking camera

  • Ceiling mics for in-class and remote student interactions and wireless mic for faculty

  • LCD Screen on back wall to view remote students

Technology Infrastructure Before Pandemic, Smartboard, Camera, Microphone, LCD

Our Extended (Hybrid) Classroom Project

In April 2020, with uncertainty looming around the return to campus for Fall 2020, we were facing two problems:

  1. Come Fall, some students may be able to return to campus while others may not. Those unable to return, would only have a remote option. In addition, we may need to reduce the density of students on campus.
  2. Zoom for teaching, works well when the entire class is remote. However, if faculty are focused on in-person students, those learning remotely over Zoom (in a traditional classroom) may have a lesser experience.

To solve these two problems, we started to think about scaling our existing hybrid model. This meant a) adding infrastructure in remaining non-hybrid classrooms and the more challenging one, b) scaling our ‘white-glove service’ for faculty to teach in this environment. Our ‘white-glove service’ included student technology assistants in each hybrid course who would assist faculty in their classrooms, senior technology assistants remotely monitoring 3-4 simultaneous course sections and full-time staff training faculty and supporting operations around the hybrid class – managing students, classroom recordings, A/V assistance, etc.

Knowing that we would have a reduced presence of students on campus and the recruitment challenges we would face with hiring students for the large number of courses, we set-up two proof-of-concepts for our next-gen hybrid classrooms, one where we would not have a student technology assistant present in the classroom. Our goal was to come up with an innovative design, that would serve as a self-sufficient model.

Proof-of-Concept

Our proposal for this project started on April 13, 2020. For our proof-of-concept, we equipped two classrooms with slight variations in classroom A/V technologies and invited 19 faculty for a test-drive. After observing faculty and listening to their valuable feedback, we identified four challenges to overcome for a successful launch:

  • Aggressive implementation timeline (3.5 months to complete the installation and supply concerns)
  • Faculty setup time to start class, through our proof-of-concept, we discovered that it would take faculty 13 steps (10 minutes) to initiate their class
  • Support staff – would require enough support staff during start of each class and would need to train everyone with new infrastructure
  • Faculty readiness – asking faculty to attend on-campus extensive trainings before fall especially given strict state guidelines for gatherings

 

Before the proof-of-concept, our plan was to upgrade and add technologies in our non-hybrid classrooms (54). Given the challenges mentioned above and the need to provide a self-sufficient model, we decided to upgrade our existing A/V infrastructure in all 69 classrooms in addition to the necessary technologies for hybrid learning.

Technology Infrastructure After Pandemic

Updated Technology Infrastructure 2020

  • Touch screen podium monitor with stylus
  • 2 ceiling microphones
  • QSYS PTZ Camera
  • LCD Screen on back wall to view remote students
  • Updated A/V touch panel for camera and lighting presets and switching displays
Project Implementation

We contracted with CAVT Solutions, LLC our A/V Integrator who began the project on May 26th with a team on-campus managing and working on various parts of the install and programming phases.

Our decision to upgrade our A/V infrastructure, also came with a substantial change in how we did things. We decided to move to a network-based A/V infrastructure which would provide our support staff (Campus Presentation Technologies) the ability to monitor and troubleshoot equipment remotely. Our Network Services team played a significant role in making sure our network was equipped and in place to support this goal.

Outside of IT, our construction and planning team provided much needed support for completing all building infrastructure construction related to installing equipment, electrical, and other aspects needed to complete the project.

Working Teams

Working Teams

Goal

Assessing writing surface capabilities and implementation of touch screen monitors

 

- Faculty can start using it as naturally as possible
- Provide necessary training
- Figure out the issues that could come up so that is incorporate in the training and documentation
- Go through all use cases for how faculty will be using this

GUI (Graphical User Interface) design for touch control panel

- Collaborate with faculty to finalize the wireframe for the touch panels replacing the AMX touch panels

 

Podium image and setup time

-Work towards reducing the number of steps for the faculty to get started
- Get podium image ready for fall
- Lanschool for Collaboratory rooms

 

Training & documentation

- Setup workshop format, content, and dates
- Publish documentation on the AT website
- Create necessary videos

 

Establishing a support model for classroom support

- Determine the # of resources needed to provide support for start of class
- Define process for when help button is pressed
- Need for TAs etc.

 

Course recordings during class time & use of Blackboard delivery

Define the process for faculty to record their class sessions and eventually add the recording in Bb.

Actual installation and readiness of the classroom with equipment, etc.

Removal and recycling of existing equipment - procedure and locations

 

Classroom readiness

Actual installation and readiness of the classroom with equipment, etc.

Removal and recycling of existing equipment - procedure and locations

Quality check

Make sure the classroom A/V and support system are working according to current standards.

 

Quality Check

Upon completion of installation of the equipment, our Senior Support Technicians conducted a quality check/quality control protocol by going and testing each room based on the following 44 data points:

  • Computer boots up with auto login
  • Smart Podium wakes up when computer is powered on
  • Class Format command - On Campus
  • Mics stay muted
  • Camera stays in sleep mode
  • Shades come down and go up appropriately
  • Class format command - Extended Mode
  • Shades come down and go up appropriately
  • Back Monitor powers on
  • Lights come on
  • Lighting presets function properly
  • Mics are muted
  • Mute button for microphones on panel is functional
  • Camera wakes up in wide view mode
  • Camera and custom presets function properly
  • Camera pre-set views are accurate
  • Browsers open w/ Zoom & Blackboard
  • Duo authentication removed
  • Zoom launches in full screen
  • Zoom default camera (QSC or 1Beyond) is correct
  • Zoom mic/speaker test is good (default audio is correct)
  • Wireless Mic Test is good
  • Voice enhancement from wireless mics sounds good
  • Mic coverage in room is optimal in zoom
  • Main volume control on touch panel works
  • Speaker mute button is functional
  • Remote audio from far end is level at start
  • Outgoing audio level at start
  • Advanced audio panel- incoming voice level control is functional
  • Advanced audio panel- outgoing voice level control is functional
  • advanced shades control
  • playback audio does not come through the mics
  • Swap Front/Rear Displays functions properly
  • Hide - Projector button functions properly
  • Doc Cam functions
  • Smart Ink works properly
  • Microsoft ink works properly
  • HDMI cable for laptop (video and audio)
  • Ethernet network cable
  • USB cable connected to computer (for thumb drive)
  • Cable management
  • Change class format/Shutdown command functions
  • Room connected to Reflect
This is the largest single-project AV over IP integration that we know of for a university in the Eastern US…The technology that you have installed is absolutely state- of-the-art…The networking side of this project was, as you know, also an extreme challenge.

Quote from our A/V Vendor
Faculty & Student Readiness

On August 3rd, we began offering hands-on Extended Classroom Bootcamps to faculty. We scheduled 73 bootcamps over six weeks with attendance from 125 faculty. These bootcamps were limited to 4-5 faculty per session with 45-minutes of technology training and 45-minutes of hands-on practice.

Following our training, we deployed a survey to faculty who went through the bootcamps and of the 49 faculty who responded, 45 faculty self-identified as being prepared or very prepared with “Overall teaching in a hybrid classroom”.

In addition to training faculty on how to use the classroom technology, we created videos to illustrate pedagogical approaches for the hybrid classroom.

Faculty were also provided an opportunity to test-drive our newly upgraded extended classrooms. Fifty-five faculty took advantage of this opportunity to test drive the classrooms before the beginning of the Fall Trimester.

Students were sent the following video introducing them to the online modalities supported for fall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBRFvWC7vWE&feature=emb_logo

Successful Launch and Next Steps

In Fall 2020, we had a successful launch of 246 courses in the hybrid format and after the first four weeks of expected learning curve, our faculty seemed more relaxed and comfortable using our new hybrid classrooms.

While the project has been an enormous success, there are areas where we can improve and enhance the experience of in-class and remote students. We are currently exploring the following:

  • Adding additional cameras with automatic switching capabilities
  • Highlighting remote participants in the classroom and featuring active remote speakers
  • Enhancing the faculty user experience when managing Zoom and other application windows, such as, the chat and participants
Bentley has done an amazing job with the technology, training, and everything to make this hybrid term work…have made it possible for me to give the best classes I am personally able to give right now…
Bentley Faculty
Individuals and Teams Behind the Project

Project Lead

  • Gaurav Shah, Director, Academic Technologies

Project Managers

  • Margarita Alicea-Saez
  • Karen Young

Academic Technology Center

  • Margarita Alicea-Saez, Manager of Operations for Academic Technology
  • Molly Amado, Senior Instructional Technologist for Hybrid Online
  • Debra Mascott, Learning Experience Designer
  • Fred Monshi, Senior Manager, Instructional and Research Infrastructure
  • Tamara Rabinovich, Senior Research and Learning Technology Consultant
  • Steve Salina, Manager, Instruction and Research Video Technology
  • MaryJo Sanz, Manager, Learning Experience Design
  • Gaurav Shah, Director, Academic Technologies
  • Maria Skaletsky, Senior Research Consultant

Campus Presentation Technologies

  • Ruth Horwitz, former Senior Manager, Online and Campus Presentation Technologies
  • Steve Demetrius, Senior Instructional and Online Media Specialist
  • Shay Lynch, Senior Instructional and Online Media Specialist
  • Mark Tomlinson, Instruction and Online Media Specialist

Network Services

  • Jay Matrona, Director
  • Vasif Huseynov, Principal Network Engineer
  • Carson Gibson, Network and Telecomm Technician II
  • Ali Hasanov, Senior Network Security Engineer
  • Emmanuel Opoku Bunna, Network Administrator
  • William Rizzo, Manager, Telecommunications

Facilities

  • Jon Nattinville, Director, Construction and Planning

Systems, Networks, and Telecom

  • Travis Peterson, Senior Cloud Engineer

Client Services

  • Lisa Duhaime, Associate Director, User Services
  • Dan Sheehan, Director, Client Services
  • Chuck Perry, Manager, Technical Services

Faculty team behind GUI design and testing:

  • Tamara Babaian
  • Scott Boss
  • Jon Ericson
  • Dave Gulley
  • Roland Hübscher
  • Tracy Noga
  • Heikki Topi

The following faculty provided feedback and assistance throughout the project:

Tamara Babaian  Dave Gulley  Nada Nasr 
Scott Boss  Alison Guzman Tracy Noga 
Alina Chircu Haijing Hao  Jim Pouliopoulos 
Tom Connors  Roland Hübscher  Bill Schiano
Marianne Delpo Kulow  Yuan Li  Chris Skipwith 
Jon Ericson  Helen Meldrum  Heikki Topi 
Erin Flynn  Jackie Masloff  Bill Vanderclock
Janis Gogan  Bruce Murphy   

Students

  • Santiago Mancheno
  • Gunjita Dhakal