Teaching in a Synchronous Lecture Hall

InstructorDCS’s Synchronous Lecture Halls are designed to connect two classrooms so that an instructor in one room can teach to students in both rooms. Our synchronous rooms are immersive. They are designed to create an experience for remote students that mirrors the experience of students in the instructor’s rooms. While we strive to provide SLHs that do not require faculty to change how they teach, there are some differences that require adapting to in order to succeed in these rooms.

The following considerations reflect the experience of Rutgers faculty and academics teaching via similar methods at other institutions. Please contact us with any suggestions for issues or solutions that  could benefit the Rutgers community. For technical instructions on operating the rooms' equipment, visit the Immersion Lectern page.

Engaging Students in the Catch Room

As you might do with students at the rear of any large space, students in the "catch" room may need to be drawn in to discussions. In the beginning of the semester, proactively call on and encourage interactions with "catch-side" students. This will impress upon them that they are able to engage with the instructor.

The cameras are oriented so that if you look at a student on the screen at the back of their room, it will appear to them that you are looking at them. However, to reinforce this, consider indicating which room the student is in that you are calling on. By calling on "the student with their hand up in Loree" or "the student in Wright Lab Auditorium's second row," students will begin to trust that where you are looking indicates who you are calling on. You will also be able to call on students in the "catch" room if you ask them to raise their hands high.

There are also several approaches you can take to not create a feeling that "catch" student rooms are second-class students. Try to avoid scanning your classroom for hands before looking for hands in the "catch" room. Similarly, do not include in-class exercises for students in your room that the other students cannot do. Along those lines, do not use different, unequal terms when referring to your students, such as "you" and "them." 

Managing the Catch Room

So that students in the "catch" room can always participate, their microphones are always active. While they are calibrated to pick up students voices well while minimizing other sound, those in the "throw" room will still hear some other noises that students make. To reduce any distraction from ambient noise from students getting settled at the start of class, when you are ready to start, ask students to settle in an take out anything they need for class. 

At the end of class, the sound of students packing up and leaving can also be distracting. To minimize this distraction, make it clear that students are not yet excused if you still have an announcement to make or would like to allow. Otherwise, some students assume that the end of the lecture is the end of class and will begin to leave.

Multiple Sources

While the Synchronous Lecture Halls have multiple projectors, these are used to display the audience camera feeds alongside any presentation materials the instructor shares. As a result, unlike other DCS rooms with multiple projectors, instructors can only project one content source (e.g.. computer, document camera) at a time.

Pointing at Projected Material

Gesturing at projected material will have the desired effect. However, if you use a laser pointer, or some other pointer, to direct attention to certain parts of a presentation you have put on the screen, students in the catch room will be unable to see it. Instead, you may use the cursor on the lectern's computer or your laptop. Open-Sankoré is an annotation program installed on the lectern's computer. It can be used to write or write over screen images and also includes a feature that turns the cursor into a large red dot that can be used like a laser pointer.

To use Open-Sankoré's laser pointer feature:

  • Open the presentation. (Note: Open-Sankoré will not work if your presentation material is in full screen mode. If you wish to use full-screen mode, you will be limited to using the cursor as a pointer or to using the annotation tools provided by PowerPoint).
  • Click on the blue application folder in the dock.
  • Click on Open-Sankoré to launch the program.
  • Side bars will appear on the left and right edges of the screen. You will not need the right side bar and can minimize it by clicking the right arrow within the side bar.
  • In the left side bar, click the laser pointer icon.
  • Now whenever you click and hold the mouse, the cursor will turn into a red dot.

Polling

Some approaches to polling require that students use a hand-held "clicker" to send responses to the instructor's computer which is connected a base receiver or a USB drive. As a result, students in "catch" rooms can not use "clickers" to respond to polls. Fortunately, the most commonly used polling solution also offer the option for students to respond using their own mobile device over the Internet, allowing students in "catch" rooms to participate. Below is a summary of how three commonly used polling solution can be used in Synchronous Lecture Halls. Click on each solution for more information.

Video

Most newer commercial video that is available on Blu-ray, DVD, or on a purchased computer file is protected by High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP). This protection ensures that media cannot be displayed without authorization or copied. Unfortunately, HDCP media is also prevented from being transmitted by the rooms' conferencing equipment.

If you would like to show video during your class, we recommend testing it beforehand. If you would like to test it with DCS staff, please contact us. If the video is not able to transmit to the other classroom, you can still use the video by providing the Teaching Fellow with a copy. The Teaching Fellow can then play the video in the "catch" room while the instructor plays in the "throw" room. RU Libraries Media Center offer a clipping service that converts video to digital format that can be accessed online through their reserve system.

Video that may be streamed via a web site, such as Netflix, are not typically subject to HDCP issues.

Writing

The rooms' high-definition cameras are capable of clearly capturing writing on the lower blackboard. To ensure that students in the "catch" room can see blackboard writing, check the confidence monitor at the back of the room to ensure that your writing is on screen and legible.

Alternatively, you may use the document camera instead of the blackboard. The document camera image appears the same in both rooms, so you do not need to worry about visibility for students watching remotely. DCS document cameras are high-definition and give instructors the ability to zoom, focus, and adjust lighting to achieve a clear image.