Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Learning Hybrid Teaching in a Dual Delivery Room

Ceiling microphone in Room N101
ANU's major teaching rooms are being upgraded for "dual delivery", so I attended a session today in the famous room N101 at the Computer Science and Information Technology Building, to learn how to work the new equipment. 

The terminology used at ANU is:

"Hybrid: ... more than one method, though NOT at the same time.

Dual Delivery: ... with students in the physical space on campus while simultaneously having students online for the live session. ..."

So ANU hybrid is what is called blended elsewhere, and ANU Dual Delivery is called hybrid, or hyflex, elsewhere.

N101 is no stranger to advanced equipment, being the seminar room for the computing researchers, as well as previously those from CSIRO. In this room I have helped run global events, including ones helping set networking policy for the nation (with a Senator and two cabinet ministers at one event). This tended to make the room difficult to use for ordinary seminars and teaching, as you could never be sure what equipment was installed, and working. For a time there was a super high definition projection screen covering the whole front wall of the room, used for experiments in remote collaborative working. However, this made it difficult to just show some slides. There were also sockets for connection to different ultrahigh speed networks, but sometimes it was difficult to get ordinary Internet. 

Diagram of the operation of the
Sure MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone

The room has now been set up with the ANU's standard teaching equipment for "Dual Delivery (High)". There is a panning camera on the ceiling, along with the largest, most sophisticated microphone I have ever seen, to cover the entire room (a Sure MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone). The control console on the lectern has been reprogrammed to operate these.

Some other rooms have a "Dual Delivery (Basic)" setup, with a web camera on the lectern pointed at the speaker, and a desktop microphone. Other rooms are "Dual Delivery (BYO)", where the lecturer has to bring their own camera and laptop, to plug into the room system. 

By default, the "Dual Delivery (High)" room works much as in the past. If there is a lecture scheduled, sound and vision will be automatically recorded, and provided to enrolled students after the lecture (what ANU calls hybrid mode). If the lecturer wants remote students to be able to join in live to air (synchronously), they are required to manually start Zoom, or Teams, on the computer built into the desk, or on their laptop. This is what ANU is calling Dual Delivery mode. The control panel on the desk can be used to select vision from the inbuilt computer, a laptop connected by HDMI, or a wireless device via WiFi. 

Inevitably, this is a complex system, with many options. The lecturer needs to have the options explained to them, and try it out, to become comfortable. After that they will likely decide on a way of working they are comfortable with, and it will likely all just work. 

ANU has been through floods, fire, hailstorms, and a pandemic, in the last few years. So it is a good idea to be ready. I now design my teaching to allow for students to attend class on campus face to face. If that is not possible, they can attend live online. If that is not possible, they can download videos and documents, to interact asynchronously. All these options can be available at all times, without changing the course content, or assessment. The key to this is to design first for old fashioned distance education (asynchronous), then add the synchronous online option, and lastly add the classroom option. Starting with a face to face design and then trying to add online options does not work well. That may seem a bold claim to make, but I have been doing, researching, and training in how to do this for ten years.

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