Distance Learning Classrooms and Immersive Classroom Study
Rutgers University Business School | New Jersey
As part of our on-call contract with Rutgers University, much of our work has involved the design of immersive synchronous classrooms (ISC) and distance learning classrooms at the Business School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Synchronous immersion is achieved by projecting, or ‘throwing,’ a life-size visual of the presenter along with instruction content to an audience located in a remote, or ‘catch,’ classroom. The audience in the ‘catch’ classroom is in turn displayed on large format screens in the ‘throw’ classroom; located on the back wall for the faculty or presenter to see easily. By way of cameras, large format screens, and highly responsive audio systems, the presenter can engage, acknowledge, and call upon ‘catch’ classroom students in real time to create a truly integrated classroom experience. While both distance learning and immersive learning environments rely heavily on technology to allow students and faculty to engage, to achieve synchronous immersion the space must be able to support a full-scale, live projection or display of the presenting faculty.
This initiative was developed as a response to the university’s most recent master plan, ‘Rutgers 2030.’ The university had identified that students were traveling heavily within and between their multiple campuses to take classes which was having a negative impact on their academic experience, and the master plan had proposed pursuing distance learning techniques and other new pedagogical technologies like ISC as a countermeasure. The first true ISC on campus involved adapting a pair of existing lecture halls, one in the Wright-Reiman Building on the New Brunswick Busch Campus and one in the Loree Building on the New Brunswick Cook/Douglass Campus, that could each accommodate 150 students.
In April 2018 we worked with the university to study classrooms used by the Business School on the New Brunswick Livingston and Newark Campuses with the goal of identifying spaces that could be converted to ISC or outfitted with distance learning technology. Following our evaluation and programming, we identified one room on each campus that could be converted to distance learning in a manner that accommodated the school’s specific needs as well as their teaching style. Each room was designed to accommodate thirty students in both a flat-floor and sloped-floor configuration. Despite the need to install significant new systems and finishes, existing support pieces like table legs were reused where possible. The spaces were completed in Fall 2019.
Then, in late 2019, we catalogued and assessed the remaining classrooms in the Business School’s Piscataway and Newark Campus buildings to evaluate their suitability to be adapted as ISC. While we identified several promising options, the project has not yet moved forward into full design.
Architecture, Interior Design, Planning