News

Blended Learning Studio Enhances Teaching with New Technology

By Courtney Kratz, Contributor

A new technology called a Lightboard is brightening up academics in the Center For Teaching and Learning (CTL)‘s Blended Learning Studio, located in the basement of the James B. Duke Library, by making studying more interactive with existing technologies previously unavailable on campus.

Furman completed the construction and implementation of the Lightboard system last April. The board itself consists of two large sheets of plexiglass mounted on top of one another with LED lights in between. When live, students and faculty can use fluorescent dry erase markers to make writing glow through the translucent surface of the board. A camera on the other side of the room is used to create videos of the written demonstrations.

According to the CTL website, the Blended Learning Studio is “a key resource for faculty and students, which provides a space for creating instructional videos and supplemental materials for class, [such as] lecture capture, student project support, screencasting help and other requests.”

The Blended Learning Studio’s Lightboard room is located in the lower level of James B. Duke Library, Room 001. Dr. Brian Goess of the chemistry department reports that the technology is available for anyone to use as a community resource. No prior training is required.

The Lightboard technology was invented by Dr. Michael Peshkin at Northwestern University. He posted a YouTube video on how to build one and the benefits of this technology to improving teaching methods.

“The Lightboard lets me draw highly visible sketches and equations as I lecture, work with my drawings in a natural way, face the camera, and capture good quality video without post-production editing,” Peshkin said in a promotional video.

Members of Furman’s chemistry department watched Peshkin’s video and decided to build one here. Preliminary planning for the Lightboard began in August 2014, and the technology was first utilized on Mar. 26. Taking the better part of a year to build, the Lightboard cost roughly $15,000 before final completion.

“I think we’re probably one of the first universities to follow that video and actually create one ourselves, but I do know of other universities who are experimenting with the technology,” Goess said.

Building the Lightboard was a result of collaboration from many different people here on campus. In particular, the Blended Learning Studio was a result of collaboration between Information Technology Services (ITS), Facilities Services, the Library and CTL. Main contributors to the Lightboard’s implementation include Amy Boyter and Mike Winiski from CTL, Alex Hasan and Fred Miller from ITS, and Tony Whitaker and Larry Richardson from Facilities Services.

“They were amazing. These folks are here to help faculty do amazing things, and this is one of them,” Goess said.

With a videographer staffing the room, the Blended Learning Studio allows professors to digitally invert their videos for readability. Instructors can also write on the board in their recordings without having to turn around. This allows them to face students and use hand gestures, all while standing behind the writing on the plexiglass. In addition, the Lightboard supports overlays of PowerPoint slides, image and videos, all capable of annotation.

Another reason the Blended Learning Studio is such an innovative resource for professors is that it augments the flipped classroom model, where professors use pre-recorded lectures before class to better utilize time in the classroom for student discussion and activities.

Dr. Goess, a proponent of the flipped classroom model, originally used his own version of lightboard technology, which included an IPad with a rotatable mount.  

Now facilitated by the Lightboard, Goess reports that the Blended Learning Studio is particularly helpful for his chemistry classes, where communication is largely visual. In addition, he also encourages students to use the Lightboard technology in the studio in their free time. In some cases, he assigns supplemental problems from the textbook to groups, letting the students film themselves give the Lightboard solution and then posting the videos to their wiki-textbook for fellow and future students.

Students are able to create “video-taped solutions so that every student in the future now can watch a student from the past solve the problem,” Goess said.

The Lightboard is used mostly by students and faculty in the chemistry, math, biology, business and accounting, health sciences and psychology departments. However, the Blended Learning Studio is open to anyone. Dr. Menzer in the English department has plans to use the technology for sentence diagramming. Any student interested in using the technology simply has to make an appointment with Amy Boyter in CTL.

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