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Case Study

ViewSonic® ViewBoard® Solution

Readies Secondary School for Interactive Adaptability Amidst COVID-19

Company

Serving students from Brentwood Tennessee and the surrounding community, Brentwood Academy is an independent co-educational college preparatory school for students in grades six through twelve. Offering a full spectrum of classes including honors and Advanced Placement courses, Brentwood Academy
is located 15 miles south of Nashville.

Overview

Problem:

  • Develop a flexible teaching system to adapt to a changing climate
  • Prepare for in-person learning, while having the ability to shift to a hybrid learning solution

Solution:

  • 65-inch ViewSonic® ViewBoard® IFP6550 4K interactive displays
  • myViewBoardTM software

Result:

  • Brentwood Academy is ready to deliver top-notch education in any foreseeable circumstances
  • Easily accommodate those who need to learn or teach from home
  • Enhance student learning and allow interactivity in new ways that we and the teachers are very excited about

With this new system we’ll be able to more easily accommodate those who need to learn or teach from home. We’ll also be able to meet the needs of students who may need to recuperate or quarantine from home, and we’ll be able to quickly pivot should we need to move to 100% remote learning.

— Jeff Bryant, Brentwood Academy Dean of Academics

Problem

Like thousands of schools across the country, in March of 2020 Brentwood Academy closed its doors and began an unprecedented experiment in distance  learning brought about by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. To quickly implement a solution, the IT team aligned teachers around Zoom as the distance learning platform to finish out the educational year.

With this stopgap in place, the team turned its sights on preparing for the upcoming school year. No one could predict whether the spread of COVID-19 would prevent the return of in-person learning in the fall or require another closure if the school was able to reopen as scheduled.

“We took the time to reflect on the current conditions with COVID-19 while school wasn’t in session,” said Brentwood Academy IT Director Chris Allen. “We were exploring options for systems that would enable us to adapt to a changing climate – whether during a complete lockdown or if staff or students needed to self-quarantine.”

The goal, said Allen, was to be ready for in-person learning, while having the ability to nimbly shift at any moment to hybrid or complete virtual learning.

Solution

To achieve their goal of delivering a highly flexible and adaptable teaching system, the Brentwood Academy team realized that they needed more than communication software. Likewise, their current projection system not only limited their options but had inherent in-classroom challenges. Cabled connectivity to laptops, VCR/DVD players and document cameras was cumbersome, messy and time consuming. The ceiling-mounted audio system radiated sound into surrounding classrooms while interactivity and annotation capabilities were limited.

Investing in interactive displays with robust connectivity, communications and annotation capabilities would enable teachers to bring an enhanced classroom- like experience to remote students.

The transition to Zoom for distance learning went well, leading Allen to initially consider a Zoom-based display solution. Then he discovered ViewSonic.

“I was looking into which companies were leveraging Zoom with their interactive displays,” said Allen. “When I discovered ViewSonic it became clear that their solution offered the adaptability that we were looking for. It was clear that ViewSonic® ViewBoard® interactive displays and myViewBoardTM software would open up many options and opportunities.”

More research and testing led to the final decision to create an adaptable system with several components, the centerpiece of which was the 65-inch ViewSonic® ViewBoard® IFP6550 4K interactive display.

“We put the 65-inch ViewSonic ViewBoard displays in every classroom. They are the core of our hybrid-ready virtual learning environment,” said Allen. “Along with the myViewBoard software, they connect all the pieces of the system together. Because they’re agnostic, they are very open to other tools that our teachers use, like document cameras and even legacy VCR players.”

Standardized around Microsoft 365 Education, they moved from Zoom to Microsoft Teams for video collaboration. No additional sound equipment was needed, said Allen, as the integrated ViewSonic® ViewBoard® audio was both sufficient for and contained within each classroom. Intel NUC small form factor PCs power each classroom setup while cloud-based ViewSonic® myViewBoard® software delivers in-person whiteboarding capabilities and the ability to prepare materials and present from anywhere.

“The myViewBoard software combines everything we needed to teach under any circumstances,” said Jeff Bryant, Brentwood Academy Dean of Academics who worked with Allen to develop the new system. “From the first time I saw it I was impressed with the ability of the ViewSonic solution to provide interactivity between teachers and students at a really responsive rate and be adaptable to hybrid scenarios.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge, said Allen, was authentication. While newer ViewBoard interactive displays have an integrated fingerprint reader, Brentwood Academy chose an earlier model to accommodate substitute personnel. The concern: password security. Their solution: Windows Hello, the authentication method integrated into Windows 10 Pro, in conjunction with a FIDO2 USB key.

“It’s essentially like a car key for the ViewBoard display, which has three easy- access USB ports. Each key is bound to a teacher’s Microsoft 365 identity,” said Allen. “Teachers can simply plug the key into any ViewBoard on campus, which then prompts for a PIN.”

Another point of pride in the unique system setup is the two strategically placed 105-degree field of view USB 3.0 webcams with built-in microphone arrays in each classroom.

“We have one webcam mounted on top of each ViewBoard display and another attached to the ceiling about 10 feet into the classroom,” said Allen. “This enables us to capture more than just what’s happening at the front of the room.”

The goal, said Allen, was to replicate seeing and interacting with each participant in a Zoom call.

“The Zoom concept of distance learning enables all the participating students to see and interact with one another,” said Allen. “With our dual-camera setup teachers can flip to the second camera to show the entire class during a discussion, enabling those participating from home or elsewhere to be more fully involved. If we only had the single camera facing the ViewBoard, remote students could only see the teacher and front of the room.”

Last but not least, the team purchased 75 ViewSonic WoodPad drawing tablets, which enable teachers to replicate the whiteboarding experience from home.

Result

While the realities of the 2020-2021 school year are far from certain, Brentwood Academy is ready to deliver top-notch education in any foreseeable circumstances. Teachers will train on the ViewSonic ViewBoard system beginning in early August, then set up their FIDO2 keys during orientation using help desk kiosks to walk them through the process of adding the key to their Microsoft profile.

“From day one we’ll have the added security of this multifactor authentication,” said Allen. “And the teachers will be able to securely launch any programs and apps they have associated with their Microsoft Education account profile from any ViewBoard on campus – including their personal myViewBoard hub and Microsoft OneDrive.”

Students who start the school year in-person will see an impressive new classroom setup and experience enhanced collaboration and interaction with content. Those who need to be out of the classroom for any reason will similarly enjoy enhanced collaborative and interactive learning benefits.

“With this new system we’ll be able to more easily accommodate those who need to learn or teach from home,” said Bryant, “We’ll also be able to meet the needs of students who may need to recuperate or quarantine from home, and we’ll be able to quickly pivot should we need to move to 100% remote learning.”

Those learning remotely (which Bryant points out includes students traveling during the school day for sports or a debate tournament) will receive synchronous learning complete with the sights and sounds of their teacher and classmates, along with full visibility to all content displayed and manipulated on the ViewSonic ViewBoard. For those that can’t sync up live, the solution provides the ability to record visual and auditory content, said Bryant.

“With our block schedule it can be difficult to catch up if a student misses even one class,” said Bryant. “With the myViewBoard and Microsoft Teams combination, they don’t have to wait to get the material second hand. Instructors can record key lesson material and make it available anytime, anywhere.”

This, he added, is a terrific tool for all students, who can use the recorded material for concept review and test prep.

The benefits for teachers are equally notable. First, said Allen, the IT team wanted to offer a solution that was easy for teachers to adapt to their instructional styles and existing toolkit.

“We wanted it to be pretty seamless for teachers. The myViewBoard software and ViewBoard displays are so intuitive they make this easy,” said Allen, adding that because it’s not a proprietary system it will be easy for the teachers to use any tools they are already using. When they walk into their classroom for the first time, everything will be setup and ready to go.

“With the setup we developed, the only thing teachers will need to do is come to class, log into Windows, launch Teams, and launch the myViewBoard software,” said Allen. “From that point they’ll already have a classroom session going within Teams and will be able to share their desktop, which is their myViewBoard whiteboard. They can easily display the myViewBoard session from within Teams as well as bounce in and out of the myViewBoard window to open a web browser, display a YouTube video or open an app. It’s all very straightforward.”

The flexible capabilities address another critical challenge for teachers during COVID-19: the strain of balancing work and family.

“If we do have to go into full distance learning,” said Allen, “teachers will be challenged by having to teach from home. With this system they can come into their classrooms and teach from their ViewBoard displays.”

The ViewBoard WoodPad tablets provide an additional level of flexibility, added Allen, by enabling instructors to interface with their myViewBoard software and develop visual materials from home, whether for advanced prep or because they are self-isolating due to potential coronavirus exposure.

Amid these uncertain times excitement is nonetheless building around the new system, said Allen.

“We had two instructors teaching summer enrichment classes using the ViewSonic ViewBoard displays,” he said. “Other teachers walked by and were mesmerized by it, then came and asked when they were getting one.”

Staff and faculty have been making the same request, leading Allen to put ViewSonic ViewBoard displays in the school’s dens and meeting spaces as well as every classroom.

“We’re all in with ViewSonic and we couldn’t be happier with this solution,” said Bryant. “Even if we never have to do hybrid or remote learning, the ViewSonic ViewBoard displays will enhance student learning and allow interactivity in new ways that we and the teachers are very excited about.”

And if distance learning is called for?

“I’m confident that we met our goal of best-in-class products that will help us deliver a top-notch learning experience whether in or out of the classroom,” Allen concluded.

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