In April 2020, our media engineering group was asked to design and develop an implementation plan for 35 instructional studios that would be located on two campuses. Our instructional studios were highlighted in the New York Times, JHU Engineering Magazine, and other publications. They were also featured in two separate videos:
This project had several high-level requirements:
- Adaptability for different spaces (four different buildings, two campuses, drastically different room sizes)
- Flexible content sharing (laptop, main camera, document camera, whiteboard camera)
- Unified interface for controlling and recording live online courses (reduced support load, simplified documentation, easy of use)
- Mobile (can be quickly moved when space needs change)
- Modular and vendor agnostic (inventory was limited during the pandemic with long backorders so components needed to be easily exchanged)
In addition, supplemental studio support would be provided by the school’s IT group, which meant using equipment that was familiar to their team. Leaning on prior experience delivering live courses from the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), we partnered with Johns Hopkins Engineering faculty to envision a new approach to live online course delivery.
The instructional studios started with a mobile standing desk, which serves as the command center for instruction. The desk has a room controller, document camera, and an interactive display with adapter for laptop content share. Behind the desk is a whiteboard with whiteboard camera. In front of the desk, we designed an AV cart that includes a shotgun mic pair, LED light panels, two large displays, one off-lens teleprompter, and PTZ camera.
Every aspect of the studio design was focused on reducing external factors introduced with differing spaces, while supporting the delivery of engaging learning experiences. The light panels guarantee consistent lighting regardless of the space. Using two shotgun mics provides professional audio and allows instructors to freely move around, while reducing noise pickup from other directions. Positioning the main camera below the small monitor (off-lens teleprompter) creates the feeling of direct eye contact with the audience, and the two larger displays provide a large view of students and shared content.
The studios put the instructor in control of the meeting using a Zoom Rooms controller–allowing them to easily switch between and share multiple types of content simultaneously: main camera, document camera, laptop content, digital annotations, and whiteboard writing.
Ultimately these studios enable flexible, high-quality live direct-to-device and direct-to-classroom content delivery and recording that improves the learning experience for students.
We went through a thorough, accelerated design and deployment process where we planned and pitched the approach to leadership, designed and tested with faculty, and built and supported with our media staff in collaboration with internal partners.
Over the summer of 2022, we worked in parallel building the studios, while also training faculty to deliver their courses during the Fall term. We created a support article and assigned support at a 4 -to-1 ratio (four studios for each support staff). Overall this effort was a tremendous success, helping maintain continuity during an extended pandemic.
In an effort to help support similar initiatives across the JHU system and universities across the nation, our team has assembled this Overview and Assembly Manual. This manual is intended to be a resource so that others may quickly deploy these studios in other settings.