The results of the September '13 Digital Classroom Podium User Survey are in. As part of our efforts to design classroom technology that is tailored to the needs of Rutgers faculty, we invited instructors teaching in DCP rooms this fall to share their experience using the podiums so far. We have begun to comb through the responses to identify trouble areas that require immediate action, draw on suggested design improvements for future podiums, and weigh potential new features. See the results below for an example of some of the data we are looking at as well as our plan of action to implement some of the suggested changes.
We first asked instructors to rate the podium. We were pleased to see that the majority of users have a positive view of the DCPs and that this perception improved when compared to last year. However, it is clear that we are not yet meeting our goal of providing a classroom system that is obvious to use from the first day of class. In particular, we have sensed that it is not obvious that the projector will turn on when a source is selected. As a result, we are working to add a projector power button to the Podium Controller - the main user interface - which would give instructors an additional and more noticeable way to start the projector. For deployment in future semesters, we are reevaluating the Podium Controller and considering a new look, different terminology, and more use of icons.
Next, we asked instructors to tell us how they use the podium. When compared to last year, we saw an increase in the overall use of DCPs, as well as an increase in the use of each teaching tool offered in the podium. Document cameras appear to be getting heavier use then in the past. Overall, we sense a greater sophistication in how instructors are using the podiums - more use of a variety of sources, more use of the podium computer as opposed to personal devices, and an increasing reliance on the computer's internet connection to access presentation material.
While fewer instructors reported experiencing difficulty than last year, we clearly have more work to do. Part of our focus will be on creating a user interface that is more intuitive in the hopes of minimizing user uncertainty. At the same time, we are focusing on improvements to the podium software and specifications that effect reliability and performance. During the beginning of the semester, we noticed intermittent communication failures that resulted in projectors not always responding. In these rooms we deployed an updated program. In other rooms, we noticed that the image from the computer would occasionally cut out. In these rooms we replaced several components which we believe have eliminated these issues. We are also researching a replacement for the current keyboard and trackpad, which has been unreliable and difficult for some instructors to use.
Areas of Focus Moving Forward
Our staff is already at work designing the next version of the Digital Classroom Podium. Based on the user survey, our experience assisting faculty in classrooms, and our own testing - we have identified several areas of focus. Among them are:
- better and more reliable communication from the podium to the projector and Blu-ray player
- more USB ports for instructors to use
- a replacement for the current keyboard/trackpad
- a redesigned Podium Controller that is more intuitive
- a version of the podium for smaller rooms that can include a height-adjustable document camera
- the near-term inclusion of several new features, including: annotation software, iClicker, lecture capture, touchscreen display monitors, and projector feedback that alerts users to the state of the projector
- the medium-term inclusion of remote assistance
- the continued research and development of extended desktop and wireless projection
Our thanks go out to all the instructors who completed this month's survey. While we will continue to poll DCP users online, please contact us at any time. Your feedback is integral to our efforts to provide a podium that is a valued teaching tool at Rutgers.