Our setup last friday

Hybrid Teaching II, The Sequal

This was the plan, but how did it work out? We’re quite happy with our findings, but hey; there is always room for improvement. So let’s reflect on the four components that we identified and come up with a nice iteration.

Room Overview Cam

The Room Overview Cam gives the home students an idea of what’s going on, but is also rather static. It shows the lecture room with students, but a downside is that homestudents see the lecturer on the back. A must have, but not that exciting. And we leave the quite slick remote control with zoom-in and turning options unused. Yet.

We learned that rasing hands to get on the first screen in Zoom is only working for a limited time, because it automatically gets lowered. The latest Zoom update also has a pin functionality for the home students, but that’s something they have to set individually.

We didn’t yet manage to easily get the home student that’s talking big on the middle screen.

We’ll set the Zoom account on the middle screen to see video-only participants. Its a nicer picture, and the student video’s get bigger.

the setup with the Gallery on the middle screen

The Lecturer Cam

The Obsbot is working really well. Though because it follows you, the delta between images is quite significant, and therefor compression is not really efficient, so either the CPU or the bandwidth is making the framerate a it low on Zoom. So either we need a more powerful computer, or a UTP ethernet connection.

Talking to the IT helpdesk, I learned that ethernet is only allowed for TU Delft computers, and not for my Macbook Air. Hmmmm…maybe via 4G could work?

We also learned that the lecturer should be aware of the Obsbot, and know how it works and how to manage it with gestures. That needs a bit of preparation beforehand, otherwise it’s a bit much to handle while lecturing.

The lecturer’s computer has quite some things to manage: incoming audio, audio out, the Obsbot, the clicker, the screensharing on Zoom. And once the WIFI in the room fails for a little while — which it did — Zoom stops sharing, screens start flashing and from then it needs quite some intensive care. And because of the complex settings, re-sharing and all that, this is not something you want to leave to the (guest) lecturers. It’s quite panicky, actually.

A couple of times the Kensington clicker didn’t work — annoying and distracting — for no clear reason. I’ll buy some Logitech to see if that makes a difference.

Maybe this Logitech R400 does a better job than the Kensington?

Having the guest lecturers bring their own laptop is another challenge, because then we have to connect everything, tweak audio and video settings and stuff. So yesterday we put her presentation on a USB stick and presented from my Macbook Air. But then it’s not the presenters own laptop, which also might feel a bit uncomfortable for her/him.

The Interview Cam

My two kids have done a nice job designing and 3D printing some connectors and stuff to attach an old Iphone 6, a batterypack and a wireless mic unit to the 3 meters long extendable pole that I bought.

Even though the pole is quite long, the top row in the room is hard to reach, at least the mic input from 1,5 meters is not enough for the students at home to clearly hear the questions.

The pole is at first rather in you face, but thats probably a matter of getting used to it.

And we found that our Teaching Assistant needs a bit of time to get to the particular student, so she/he has to hold the question. Therefor it doesn’t cater for a quick round of feedback and short comments. So we have to choose for which format to use or not use it.

The moderator

We learned that the moderator in the room is a must-have. Someone constantly listening in to the Zoom session to check if audio is working and to follow the chat on possible technical issues.

At the beginning of the session, we’ll encourage online students to turn on cameras and to raise hands if they have a question. The moderator will then ask them to ask the question live. Also because we found that a chatstream in Zoom is not helping to connect live and online.

And if the moderator can also fire it up a bit, that’s a nice feature. So it’s probably good to have someone from the BPC coaching team do the moderation. It’s quite an active role, actually.

So how to iterate?

Idea one: optimize a bit and practice

We could connect the obsbot to the moderator’s computer. That makes it a bit easier for the lecturers computer. That also allows for a shorter USB-C cable, which leads to better image quality. The moderator could then also be the one responsible to ‘help’ the Obsbot in case the lecturer got too close or out of reach, and to get it back on track.

And maybe connect another mic to the pole, for example the Rode that I have used for video in the past.

The Rode Videomic GO

And just practise, and give it some other round. Practise leads to skills, right?

Idea two: Ditch the iphone & throw the Mic

Making a bit more of a leap, an improvement could be to disconnect Interview Cam and Mic. We could get only the mic to the audience, get rid of the iPhone and use the Room Overview Cam to grab the image of the student that asks a question, using the remote control and zoom-in capabilities.

That also allows us to put the mic in something soft (like a teddy bear) that we could throw, which is much quicker, and that the student could hold in front of herself when asking a question: Talk to the bear! Awkward, but potent. That also limits the amount of camera’s to two. We can ask the students to pin these two cams themselves.

In this scenario, the Room Overview Cam needs to be manned. The teaching assistants could probably do that. The bear or dice could be thrown by the presenter. That could also be a fun kick-off for the interaction.

Maybe one of these foam dice could to the job of making the wireless Boya throwable?

Idea three: make the moderator’s computer the centre of the universe

Some goal is for the lecturer to have a less complex setup. So we could also connect the Obsbot as well as the wireless set of mic’s to the moderator’s computer. And connect that computer to external audio.

An alternative setup

That means that the audio of the lecturer’s presented video will go over Zoom, via the server and get back to the room via the Moderator’s Zoom account to the room audio system.

This probably will introduce all kinds of complexity that we can’t foresee, yet. We for sure need to try it out.

Clearly enough ideas to iterate. Let’s see how we go in the next round!

Update: this is how we went

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