Hybrid Update #3: I made a vlog!

In this week’s post we start off with some key updates and answer some questions we’ve been getting this week. We also have details of our communication plan, an update on the project team’s current activities and we’ve attached a copy of last week’s project board update. Finally, as a special bonus there’s a video tour of our hybrid development room in Dalhousie by possibly the most amateur vlogger this side of YouTube. Enjoy.

Lecture PC Setup

This week’s updates

  • Capture & Stream kit has begun to arrive ready for distribution to the 50 rooms. Remember, Capture & Stream is our intermediary solution that will provide a guaranteed minimum level of hybrid, ready for the start of main teaching at the end of September.
  • Installation of the more advanced Dual Mode kit will begin across the 50 rooms (find the list here) at the end of August. A huge shout-out should go to our AV partners at Streamtech for moving heaven and earth to get the hardware side of the project moving with a tight schedule and challenging supply chain.
  • The Eduzone in the library has been approved to be converted into a hybrid showcase room to give easy access for people who want to have a go.
  • The cameras in the standard Dual Mode build can now track the lecturer as they move around the room (weird to experience helpful for online students to feel part of the session). This marks the completion of our first hardware iteration for dual mode.
  • Work has begun mapping the key workflows, or journey maps, that staff and students will need to follow to get the most out of our new hybrid capability. Emphasis is being put on minimising steps and seeking the magical ‘it just works’ feeling for our users.
  • The project team is still lacking it’s allocated communication and onboarding person, but we are persuading every avenue to find and appoint a suitable candidate (for now you’ll be getting most of your comms from me I’m afraid 😉)

The burning questions

When will the hybrid rooms be ready?
We are currently working to deliver two levels of teaching mode: Capture & Stream, and Dual-Mode. This is explained in more detail in our first post but to summarise:

– There are 50 rooms being upgraded to support hybrid teaching across the campus. All rooms out-with this list will remain as they are with no change from when they were last taught in.

– Capture & Stream will be installed in these rooms for the end of September. This is the teaching mode you should plan for if you have requested and been timetabled a hybrid room.

– Dual-Mode will become available throughout Sem 1 as these same 50 rooms are upgraded with the new equipment. We will publish regular updates on progress with this increased capability. Adoption of this enhanced capability will be entirely at the discretion of the lecturing staff even as it becomes available, as Capture & Stream will remain an option within the room.
When will I be able to try it out? What about training?
The challenge we face is having to design the workflow, install the equipment and develop a programme of training, near simultaneously. However, here are some of the key plans:

– As we complete the journey mapping work for each mode, we will publish the workflows for staff and students along with examples, videos, documentation, and online simulations on this site. I anticipate that the next weekly blog post following this will be able to announce the initial workflow for Capture & Stream.

– The Eduzone and other rooms across campus will become available to staff before the start of semester to demo and practice both Capture & Stream and Dual-Mode. We are developing a simple booking system.

– We are working on the idea of Capture & Stream ‘kits’, that contain a microphone, web camera, and instructions. The plan is to distribute these kits to Schools to make available to their staff. They can then be used to simulate and practice this mode of teaching as well as be used for makeshift online/capture & stream sessions in suitable rooms under control of the schools. Remember that Capture & Stream is a teaching session that is simply streamed live to online participants with minimal interaction, that is simultaneously being recorded as required.

– We will begin to schedule drop-in training sessions as soon as rooms become available. These will be hosted across campuses and provide opportunity to try and practice the modes in a facilitated environment.

– We’re planning student communications now, but intend to create a combination of central resources for online participants and communication ‘kits’ that will be passed to schools to integrate into their own communication channels.

– In room instructions will be big, bold and easy to follow. Impenetrable technical instruction manuals have been banned.

On a more informal note, I understand that anxiety will increase as the semester approaches, and you still have not seen or tried these new teaching modes. Be assured that we will provide everything we can as soon as it becomes possible and will continue to offer support throughout the semester.

Note that if you’ve used a USB mic, a webcam and Collaborate, then you’ve already experienced 75% of Capture & Stream.
Will the continuing upgrade work disrupt my teaching?
Once term begins in earnest, installation work for Dual Mode will be mostly done at night, leaving rooms able to operate the next day as they were the previous one. Capture & Stream will remain in place even when Dual-Mode is made available.
How do I find out more and keep up with the project?
Please read below for more details of our new comms plan, but the simplest answer is to click on the subscribe button to the right of this page!

Hybrid room tour

To help keep the community informed and involved, we’re going to bring more video content into the mix. As a first go, here’s a tour of the hybrid development room in Dalhousie I filmed on the 20th of August.

Possibly the worst vlog ever?

Communication Plan

Formal communication will go out via email. Regular comms will be posted on this Blog and distributed

Formal Comms

The high-level, must-see communications will be routed via Internal Comms and go out by email to all staff or students as required. These messages will go through the project board, including Prof. Blair Grubb to ensure they accurately represent university policy.

Regular Comms

The main channel for regular communication will be this blog. Update posts like these will be published at least weekly, containing everything we can think of to help keep the community up to date with the project.

This blog will also be used for supplemental posts on topics of interest such as highlighting the various specialist teaching facilities or examining best practice for blended learning.

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to this blog by clicking on the button to the right of this page. That way you’ll get notified whenever we post new inform

Student Comms

I am tabling student communications for this week’s board meeting, to ask guidance on our approach for student comms. The current thinking is:

  1. We send an all-student email in the run up to the start of term semester detailing how the hybrid experience will work. This message would be general, allowing schools to fill in further detail though their own channels.
  2. To support School level communication, we will prepare information packs containing instructions, advice, and other resources. These packs can then be integrated into each school’s own communications.
  3. We will update existing support channels such as Help4u, the My Dundee support centre, and the upcoming knowledgebase being built with this site.
  4. We’re creating a promotional video, highlighting the university efforts to ensure the best possible student experience wherever you connect from.

We will be consulting widely on this topic as each school knows its own students and how it wants to approach them.

Project team diary

Photo by MART PRODUCTION from Pexels

This will be a regular slot in these updates. My intention is to give some informal insight into the adventures of the hybrid project team on a weekly basis discussing what we’re doing and why.

The team is still far from being 100% of approved capacity but we are hitting the ground running as we work with the community to build our early hybrid capability.

How we’re working

This week, we settled on a loose ‘Scrum/Sprint‘ style approach to our work. Every Tuesday at 9am the team will gather around our Miro board (scrum) and:

  1. Review what we achieved last week
  2. Go back and review our big picture goals (our true north)
  3. Reflect on progress and make any decisions required to tweak our overall direction/prioritisation/velocity
  4. Set what everyone will do in the next week (sprint)

This way of working is all about speed and flexibility; we simply need to get the job done. From next week’s update, we will start publishing our sprint table so you can get an insight into how we’re doing.

User Research

Jane, Kim and Neil started work on our stakeholder research planning. In summary we will be engaging with the community in two key areas:

  • High level research will establish our starting context then track the success (or not) of the service. We’ve been pulling together existing data from the student pulse and NSS, and will begin conducting interviews and focus groups soon.
  • UX design research will work closely with the physical design work to continually test what we’re making with the community to rapidly learn and adjust our design. An example of this is the plan to publish the AV panel (the one’s that control the projectors and other kit in teaching rooms) as a webpage that people can see and comment on – Are we using the right terminology? Do the buttons make intuitive sense?

Design

Jonathan and Ed have started working through journey maps for the service. We’re using these maps to figure out the practical workflows that will eventually be used by staff and students for teaching sessions. This work is all about trying to build the most stable, intuitive processes we can in a short space of time, to minimise stress and hassle for users.

Design highlights:

  • Collaborate will be the platform for online participants to join, watch and (depending on the mode) interact with the in-person session. This will also provide the recording functionality for the ‘capture’ part of the process.
  • The AV panels will be completely redesigned to create the most intuitive experience we can, using familiar terminology and avoiding the ‘designed by a technician’ feel we know so well.
  • Working with the new ‘follow the presenter’ cameras that should allow a much greater zone of movement for lecturers who like to pace around as they exude knowledge and inspiration.
  • We’re also experimenting with colour tape to go on the floor, indicating camera views so you can avoid disappearing out of shot for your online audience.

Infrastructure

Stuart, Jonathan, Douglas and our Streamtec partners have been working overtime to ensure the hardware design is ordered, delivered, and scheduled for installation. This is a massive task requiring invaluable contributions from UoDIT, Finance and Estates. The infrastructure effort requires more work than many will ever guess and there will be a great many tributes to be made once we get the service up and running.

  • Capture and stream kit (USB mics and Webcams) have arrived and are ready for distribution.
  • Installation work for Dual Mode will begin at the end of August. This will not be a fast process as upgrading 50 rooms with ceiling mounted cameras, array mics, control equipment etc. is no small thing, but this is a great start.
  • Significant networking upgrades are being put in place to support the data requirements of dual mode.
  • We’re talking to UoDIT to secure resource to start sorting out the software back-end. In plain English this means making sure systems like My Dundee and Timetabling talk to each other, figuring how to make session recording appear in the right place etc.

Specialist Teaching Spaces

While the core Hybrid team is focusing on the 50 rooms for regular teaching, a lot of work has been going on in certain schools with specialist teaching requirements such as Labs and Studios. Most of this work is being shouldered by existing staff in each school, supported by the project team for procurement etc. I want to do a special showcase on this work, starting with the work of Malcolm Finnie and others in DJCAD. Subscribe to be first to see this showcase when it comes out.

Hybrid Classroom and Micro Studio Project (Update 17 Aug 2021)

The board agreed to share approved sections of their weekly project updates from the project manager (Stuart Moorehouse) and these will be attached in future updates.

Click here to download last weeks project board update.

Thanks for reading

That’s it for this week but we’ll be back with another post in a few days.

Feel free to ask a question in the comment section below or pop something in the Digital channel of the Education & Student Experience Team.

Comments

  1. Huge amount of progress and thinking going on. Really pleased and delighted for all involved! This is an awesome project. Thank you <3

  2. What will the screen of online students look like with all the cameras and screens available? Can they switch themselves?
    thanks

    1. Hi Murray.

      Students will be able to select between the camera feed and the presentation feed. It’s not complete control, but it does give them options. Since it’s collaborate, the experience is exactly as with an online only class – there’s your webcam view and whatever you are presenting.

      This will be the starting option, but there is scope to take it further in the future.

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