In response to the pandemic, Harvard Business School (HBS) needed to provide a learning experience to accommodate both remote and in-classroom students. To meet the challenge, a collaborative team within HBS IT designed novel hybrid classrooms to maintain the integrity of the classroom experience by accommodating both classroom and remote students with a familiar teaching environment.
HBS AV engineers and instructional designers faced significant requirements. Firstly, they needed the classroom chalkboards and class materials to be clearly visible to remote students, allowing professors to teach in the classroom the way they did prior to the pandemic. Secondly, they had to capture the faces of individual classroom and remote students and for them to be seen together simultaneously.
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The key challenge was incorporating the variety of dynamic content, such as blackboards, whiteboards, cameras, and PC presentations, into the new videoconference sessions. To accomplish this, HBS engineers utilized the multi-mage display capability of RGB Spectrum’s QuadView multiviewer, a solution that provides a method of delivering a richer distance learning experience.
The QuadView UHDx displays up to four switchable sources simultaneously in a consolidated image in a variety of customizable layouts. Each hybrid classroom contains an array of sources for student viewing. The classroom is equipped with a 4K camera capturing a wide shot of the educator’s blackboard and front of room and a second showing students in the classroom. Additional sources include document cameras. The QuadView UHDx combines up to four of these sources in windows and feeds this single, consolidated output into the videoconferencing application distributed to remote students. The multiviewer provides remote students with a correlated view of the classroom, fellow classmates, and the professor, to foster classroom interaction.
“We needed a multiviewer that preserved the high 4K image quality of the cameras plus the flexibility of custom layouts, window layering, and window cropping,” said Justin Fowler, senior AV engineer at Harvard Business School. “The RGB Spectrum QuadView was the only product on the market that could meet these requirements at an affordable price point. It makes remote students a part of the classroom experience.”
The QuadView UHDx delivers images at up to 4K 60Hz resolution. Educators can mix sources of differing resolutions, scale any input up to 4K, and route any input to any window. Up to 32 layouts are provided. Built-in audio switching allows selection of audio from any source—even those not currently displayed. Control methods include the front panel, a web interface, and third-party control devices. The QuadView allows educators to conduct classes as if everyone were present in the room, with a correlated view of content to expand the conversation.
The hybrid classroom achieves the primary goal of preserving the original HBS case method style of instruction. The response from educators, students, and staff has been extremely positive. Overall, all report that they are very pleased with the experience and the results.