Runner-Up – Innovative Use of Technology in the Face-to-Face and Online Classroom
Tom Mayer – Blue Ridge
Scott Russell – Blue Ridge
Darrell Ralston – Blue Ridge
Greg Cook – Blue Ridge
During the spring and summer of 2015, BRCC Automotive Program personnel worked with college technology support staff to create a sophisticated audiovisual system in their lab to allow Automotive Analysis & Repair students to be able to see and hear what their instructors are demonstrating from anywhere in the room. The system uses a variety of cameras, microphones and displays to be able to present everything from large work areas, such as a whole engine bay, to small technical components and test equipment. Everything that is displayed, including audio, is recorded and posted to Blackboard for students to review. The system is flexible enough to quickly adapt to display and record a student’s work as well, when it is instructionally relevant.
This project addresses three critical issues inherent to teaching in the BRCC Auto Lab:
- In most demonstrations of automotive procedures…particularly those with smaller parts, there isn’t enough room for all students to get a good view; crowding around the procedure inevitably leads to some students having a poor, or no view. This also makes note taking by the students problematic.
- The high ceiling, large space, and open bay doors of the lab, which is adjacent to a noisy interstate (the shop isn’t air conditioned) lead to very poor acoustics; students who aren’t at the front of the “crowd” have difficulty hearing what the instructor is saying.
- Anything missed by students due to the preceding issues will negatively affect their grasp of procedures, leading to repeating of procedures by the instructor or dependence on other students…who may or may not have understood the procedure.
The project addresses these issues by:
- Using a variety of cameras where they are appropriate (i.e. a small pencil camera that can be inserted into very small spaces), displaying live video on two ceiling-mounted 65-inch HD monitors and a 10×10-foot screen which allow viewing from anywhere in the work area. This allows students to sit comfortably and take notes while viewing a demonstration or view content right from where they’re working.
- Wireless lavaliere microphones amplify instructors’ voices through large wall-mounted speakers, allowing them to speak at a normal volume and yet be heard easily by students from anywhere in the room.
- All camera sources and audio input are recorded using Panopto and are made available to students in Blackboard within a few hours, allowing students to review demonstrations as often as needed.
The presentation station has wheels, allowing it to be positioned anywhere in the work area, and is controlled by an iPad mounted to the station on a flexible arm. The entire system is designed to be minimally intrusive to the instructional process, and switching sources during demonstrations is easily accomplished.
Connection to VCCS Mission & Complete 2021
This project greatly enhances the instructional delivery of the BRCC Automotive Program, which at it’s core is dedicated to “elevating Virginia’s skilled workforce.” The project is also “reinventing the way community colleges help students succeed” by creating a unique environment that allows students to be more engaged with the instructional process in class. Student success is also facilitated by recording all of the procedures demonstrated during a class session, which allows students to review what they’ve already experienced in as much detail as they need.
Applicability Across Disciplines, Units, & Institutions
A system of this nature would lend itself to any setting where students are forced to “crowd around” the instructor for instructional demonstrations. The core of this system is an easily reproduced audiovisual switching system designed to take multiple, live audio, and video sources and send them to multiple outputs (large displays, Panopto, etc.). A parts list and instructional methodologies can be provided by BRCC to anyone interested.
Creative Nature of Project & Connection to Educational Practices
Sophisticated audiovisual systems are not often found in environments such as automotive labs; while some may contain parts of the system in use at BRCC, a comprehensive end-to-end system incorporating multiple cameras, microphones, amplification, and recording is rare, if not nonexistent.
Sound educational practices include basics that are often overlooked. For instance, can the students see what I’m doing and can they hear me? This can be an issue in a normal classroom, let alone an environment such as our students find themselves in the BRCC auto lab. Another basic is student comfort; will a student learn more while craning his or her neck to see what the instructor is doing, or by sitting comfortably at a table taking notes while viewing a closeup of the instructor’s demonstration? And providing quality review materials for students is also a basic aspect of sound educational practices. Days later, students can review the same content they watched in the lab, perhaps after performing the same procedure themselves, providing further reinforcement to the learning experience.
Value Over Time
This project will retain its value indefinitely. While individual components may be switched out or replaced over time, the core functionality of the overall system is grounded in basic instructional and audiovisual principles that won’t become obsolete.