The university is making headlines in the technology community following the release of a case study on the efficacy of telecommunications and videoconferencing in university classrooms.
Since 2008, the Hilltop has been home to a “global classroom,” featuring cutting-edge audiovisual communications technology, which students and faculty use to interact with their peers at the School of Foreign Service campus in Doha, Qatar.
The study, titled “Immersive Telepresence Solutions and Managed Services at Georgetown University,” was recently released by Glowpoint, the international video communication services provider that oversees and provides tech support for the global classroom. It details the educational and monetary benefits the university has been experiencing since the global classroom got its start at Georgetown two years ago.
The product of the collaborative efforts of the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship and the university’s technology staff, the global classroom stemmed from frustration over several failed trial runs with technologies that lacked the clarity and workability essential to the day-to-day functioning of the typical university classroom. Since 2000, CNDLS’s mission has been to integrate technology and pedagogic theory into new tools to improve the learning process for both teachers and students.
“We were trying to develop some classes that would take place both on the D.C. campus and on the Doha campus. The one thing that we really wanted was for a faculty member to walk into the room and not have to think about anything but teaching the class, so it would be basically seamless to connect,” said Randy Bass, the executive director of CNDLS.
After several experiences with technologies that produced less than satisfactory results, Bass put together a working group charged with finding a product that would allow students on both continents to feel like they were in the same classroom. From a functional standpoint, Assistant Director of Classroom Educational Technology Services John Steitz emphasized the need for the new international classroom to be accessible to faculty. “You want a system [in which] the faculty don’t have to know how it works. [If] they can work their own laptop, they know about as much as they need to use this room.”
Reflecting on her first experience with the global classroom, professor of international migration Susan Martin admits, “At first it was a bit intimidating to use the Telepresence classroom, but it is actually quite easy. The challenge was to integrate the two sides of the classroom. After only a couple of classes, they really relaxed and began to function more as a classroom.”
The students have had an equally positive reaction.
“You get to learn from people of different cultures that you wouldn’t normally meet, and I think this type of technology really opens means of communication between different people, between different groups,” Claudia Triana (SFS ’11) said.
“You learn so much in a classroom from the other students. When you can really use a global classroom to get students with completely and utterly different perspectives, it adds a whole new understanding of the readings and what you’re discussing,” Julie Walz (SFS ’10) said.
The benefits stretch beyond an overwhelmingly positive response from students and staff the university has saved thousands of dollars in travel costs that were once used to bring guest speakers to campus.
“[With] the level at which it is used and the value it gives back both in terms of education and in terms of business solutions, there is no question that it’s worth everything we have spent on it, and I don’t think anyone regrets it,” Bass said.