Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remote Education - part II


This morning, I had the opportunity to talk about design research, particularly Participatory Design, with a class at the University of Oregon. The class is being taught by Dawn Nafus.

What a great lesson in all that technology can do right to bring disparate groups together. It was also a great lesson in how difficult it is to really engage people who are not in the room with you. (classroom image posted here with TV screen and camera in the back corner)

The technology:
  • A desktop device on the lectern allowing you to share your projected laptop both in the room and at a remote site.
  • A document viewer which allowed me to share papers and pictures that were not part of the official presentation, but which were great examples of written diaries, collages, photo diaries and subject feedback.
  • Two wide screen TV sets which allow me to see the remote class room, and them to see both me and each other (one in the back and one in the front).
  • Two video cameras - again one faced front on the speaker and one facing towards the back to catch all the students.
A tech is assigned to each class and does the behind the scenes work: turning mics on and off, zooming in, etc. Technically, it was great. Everything I needed to do was fully supported. The students mentioned that the class is taught live on each site once a week. Monday, Dawn is in Portland and Weds. in Eugene. This model is preferred over always dialing in to a remote professor. The students said this way they are more engaged.

Our local room had a lively conversation and we got some great design ideas from the group in Eugene. The reality is, however, that no matter what the technology, there is no substitute for being in the same room with another person.

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