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Queen's University
 

Spring 2010 Newsletter

Videoconferencing classroom: distance studies solution

Photograph of videoconferencing classroom with orientation to screen at front of room

Laurent Godin knew he wanted to do something different this winter. An Associate Professor of Structural Geology and Tectonics, Godin teaches a combined undergraduate and graduate class in Advanced Structural Analysis, and he wanted his students to have enhanced access to the specialized knowledge of their discipline through the use of multiple instructors. After reaching out to his colleagues at Carleton University and receiving a positive response, it made sense for Queen's and Carleton to pool both their student and instructor resources. Overcoming the logistics was the next hurdle.

The joint Queen's-Carleton class that evolved consisted of 24 Queen's students and 3 Carleton students. With two hours of lecture time and three hours of lab and tutorial work per week, fitting five hours of course work into one day seemed overwhelming. Splitting the sessions over two days would require the Carleton students to travel to Kingston every week and find overnight accommodation, a time-consuming and expensive option.

In researching alternatives, Godin initially explored the idea of a broadband solution, such as iChat or Skype, that could be utilized within his department. However, it quickly became apparent that the available facilities were inadequate. When a colleague told him about ITServices' videoconferencing classroom, Godin was intrigued.

With the ability to accommodate up to 30 students, using the videoconferencing classroom at Queen's meant that the Carleton students could participate in the lecture portion of the class using comparable facilities at Carleton, thereby alleviating the need for them to be in Kingston overnight every week. Similarly, the guest professors from Carleton would not be required to travel to Kingston to deliver their instruction to the Queen's students.

However, Godin quickly ran into an obstacle related to cost, since a technician from ITServices is required to establish the videoconferencing connection at the beginning of each lecture. As no funds were available from Queen's to cover these expenses, Godin was relieved when Carleton agreed to pick up the tab.

 

Using the videoconferencing classroom at Queen's meant that the Carleton students could participate in the lecture portion of the class using comparable facilities at Carleton, thereby alleviating the need for them to be in Kingston overnight every week. 

 

With the financial hurdle resolved, students and instructors alike demonstrated a willingness to experiment, and so the videoconferencing solution was a go. Godin does acknowledge that the first lecture was the most difficult hour of instruction he has ever given. "Knowing you're being filmed creates an artificiality," he explains, and both instructor and students were self-conscious during the first hour. In addition, amending his teaching style to be "conscious of the warm bodies and the virtual bodies was very challenging."

As the course has progressed, both Godin and the students have adapted, and Godin hopes to build upon this experience in future years. Interest has already been expressed in expanding the class to include students from Simon Fraser University, where Godin is an Adjunct Professor. As the Queen's videoconferencing classroom is capable of connecting to multiple sites concurrently, simultaneous instruction between Queen's, Carleton and Simon Fraser is indeed possible. While potential stumbling blocks such as logistics and fees would need to be resolved, Godin is optimistic about the collaborative potential offered by the videoconferencing classroom solution.

Please visit the ITServices web page to learn more about our videoconferencing facilities.



 

Kingston, Ontario, Canada K7L 3N6 613.533.2000