Case Study: New Hybrid Classrooms Keep Students and Teachers Engaged Over Video
Founded on the shores of Lake Ontario in 1911, Appleby College is a co-educational day and boarding preparatory school focused on the liberal arts. Students are drawn to Appleby from all regions in Canada and over forty countries around the world. The school’s motto, Neither rashly nor timidly (‘Nec temere nec timide’) accurately characterizes an institution globally recognized for its commitment to innovation.
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Like all schools in March 2020, Appleby was suddenly confronted with the reality of a “new normal”: in-person classes were abruptly canceled, the campus was closed, and uncertainty about the future pervaded the administration, faculty, and student body.
As the impact of the pandemic grew, the Appleby board met to explore their options, with a focus on how technology might be leveraged to ensure educational continuity while sustaining the sense of community that distinguished Appleby. They examined a full range of learning pedagogies and decided to explore a model that combined safe, socially-distanced in-class instruction with video-enabled distance learning.
“The key was trying to keep the human connection and the relationships that students had built,” said Doug Reid, Chief Technology Officer. “The board provided a budget allocation for remote learning classrooms, so we prototyped what was available on the market. A considerable number of classrooms needed to be updated and reconfigured, basically turning them into modern boardroom settings.”
Appleby enlisted Toronto-based workplace solutions vendor DTS (“Do Things Simple”) to scope the technology requirements and present Appleby with the most promising options. DTS created proof-of-concept “HyFlex” classrooms with plexiglass-surrounded desks and remote students visible on a large in-room display, who in turn viewed the in-room instructor over video conference.
After assessing the performance of the different video solutions, “Logitech won out based on user experience,” said Reid. “With all the concerns around remote learning, it was a nice comfort factor entering the room and hitting one button to start the meeting. It was important not to overburden teachers with extra technology. Logitech provided a simple elegant solution that they could be comfortable with, in terms of ease of use and reliability.”
Over the course of two months, DTS installed the Logitech Tap touch controller with Logitech Rally Conference Cams in over fifty Appleby classrooms running Zoom Rooms software. “This project was a model in terms of collaboration with Logitech and our AV partner DTS,” said Reid. “We were impressed with their willingness to prototype and test the video systems, and that gave us a level of confidence to move forward.”
Because Appleby also leverages Microsoft Teams in addition to Zoom Rooms, choosing platform-agnostic Logitech products also safeguards their investments for the long-term. “We appreciate the fact that if we change platforms, Logitech products can still meet our needs,” said Reid.
To manage their new classrooms, DTS and Appleby leverage Logitech Sync, a cloud-based management portal that allows them to monitor the hardware and centrally administer firmware updates, without requiring a technician to individually visit and update each hardware product.
“If we put in a system that’s complicated, and we don’t have the resources to support it, that would have been a nightmare,” said Thaer Ontabli, Manager, Infrastructure and Cyber Security.”
“Feedback has been really favorable in terms of the student experience,” said Sampson. “What we’ve tried to do with Logitech and Zoom is recreate those personal experiences happening in class before we went remote. It’s made a huge difference.”
“When we launched, it was great to see the Zoom Logitech rooms come online that first morning,” added Reid. “We could see the number of attendees, and the number started to grow over the day. We’re running classes up to seventy minutes, and those classes are recorded and shared with students in different time zones, who are able to access those videos at different times of the day. In terms of throughput and reliability, we were just overwhelmingly pleased with the performance. Our students really feel connected, despite the current circumstances.”
With the investments Appleby has made in their HyFlex classroom, Appleby is also exploring ways to expand the use of video beyond campus, and exposing students to virtual guest lecturers and experts in specific fields, while continuing the innovation for which Appleby is known.
“It’s about as close as we can come to having those students in the class, and having it be a high-quality experience you can depend on.”
Head of School, Appleby College
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