The ALE quickly became one of the most popular spots on campus, with five months of increasing use before the university shut down in March of 2020
to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“Pre-pandemic the ALE was being used daily by faculty across the campus,” said Thomas. “The Statistics professors were the first to use it extensively, but soon it was being used for every type of class as well as for board meetings, special events and training faculty and staff from our sister schools.”
It was so in-demand, says Thomas, that they regularly had to turn people away.
“This room provides the faculty with capabilities they didn’t have in the past, and it’s changing the way they teach,” he said. “Some use all the displays at once, for upgraded one-to-many teaching. For example, this approach is good for classes that use the Socratic method, and it adds visibility for vision-impaired students. Many use the displays separately for breakouts and group work, then have the students share their work onto the large screens using myViewBoard software.
In Professor Brian Hilton’s Geographic Information Systems (GIS) class, ViewSonic ViewBoard displays have particularly been effective at saving time for both himself and his students. Consider this “then” versus “now” snapshot of group work in Hilton’s classes with and without the large screen huddle spaces.
“Before I had these resources to use, groups of students would share a single laptop to create the assigned GIS maps or apps. To demonstrate their work, they had to come to the front of the room, login to their account and find the correct content – all before they could begin discussing it, all of which took time,” said Hilton. “Now each group works at a large ViewSonic ViewBoard display, which has many benefits.”
“First of all, it gets them up and moving, getting into groups around their display – a good outcome for evening classes where almost everyone is coming from work at the end of a long day. They then proceed as before with the exercise, but since the screen is large, they have the ability to work together rather than just watch one person manipulate the application. Then, when it’s time for their demonstration, we just move between groups – it’s much more efficient.”
Hilton also talked about another unanticipated bonus, “The groups at each display can easily see what the others are doing, which creates some useful friendly competition.”
The results lived up to the high expectations that the CGU leadership had for the room. What the team couldn’t have anticipated was how useful the ALE would become in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“This room has proved valuable in so many ways we didn’t imagine,” said Chitre. “For one thing, it was an ideal environment for training faculty in online learning tools and techniques before going home in March.”
“For another,” said Chitre, “ViewBoard displays have proven invaluable in facilitating remote teaching in new ways at the outset of the 2020-2021 school year, with the campus closed and the university offering online flexible learning.
“Some faculty can’t or don’t want to teach from home,” he said. “We’ve been able to bring them on campus and enable them to use the big screens to connect with remote students. They can talk to them easily and present though the ViewBoard displays. It’s really been a blessing for them.”
The combination of Zoom plus the ViewSonic ViewBoard displays has been tremendous, added Thomas.
“These tools together have been a huge win this fall for the faculty teaching from campus,” he said. “They wanted to be in a classroom to teach but many found it awkward lecturing on Zoom to an empty room. When we set them up on the ViewBoard displays with webcams and they were able to see a large gallery of their students’ faces and have bidirectional conversations -- definitely a more enjoyable teaching and learning experience.”
To maximize this benefit, the ViewBoard displays were moved to individual classrooms.
According to Thomas, whether it was late 2019, during the transition to remote learning, or in its current distributed locations, feedback has been “overwhelmingly fantastic.”
“The faculty really enjoy the modularity of the ALE and the touchscreen aspect of the displays has been one of the biggest wins,” he said. “The screens are absolutely gorgeous and the touchscreen capabilities are outstanding. We’ve had nothing but positive feedback about the displays.”
All in all (pandemic notwithstanding), the faculty’s expectations were overwhelmingly met, says Thomas.
“The professors really enjoy having a top tier, cutting-edge space that gives them so much teaching flexibility,” he said. “We’re looking forward to extending the concept and are working with ViewSonic to acquire more ViewBoard displays.”
The IT team has also been offering demos of the ALE for CGU’s sister colleges.
“Scripps just bought three and CMC is also in the process acquiring some ViewSonic ViewBoards,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting more – a lot more.”