Zoom Platform Opens New Education Avenues at RockhurstNovember 7, 2013

A new platform being used to acquaint Rockhurst University freshmen with their chosen field might soon find its way into more classrooms and activities.

The Zoom cloud conferencing software is the latest tool available to faculty and staff across campus, allowing video simulcasting and remote, interactive presentations.

The software got its first test in the Freshmen in Science seminar, which helps incoming students who have declared a science major navigate the ins and outs of their chosen field: introducing them to faculty members and each other, shedding light on Rockhurst’s science curriculum and offering practical advice on topics like healthy study habits, time management and course selection.

In the past, the number of freshmen enrolled in the seminar has presented logistical challenges, according to Elizabeth Evans, D.V.M., an associate professor of biology at Rockhurst. She said it has been difficult to find a venue to accommodate the hundreds of students enrolled in the seminar, with Mabee Theater or the Convocation Center being the largest available spaces on the University campus.  Those spaces were not the most conducive for the students, she said, or the instructors trying to present the material.

“The question became ‘how can we do this differently?’” Evans said.

Science department faculty worked with representatives of the Help Desk staff on different approaches, landing on simulcasting software Zoom. Michael Craig, director of infrastructure services at Rockhurst, said the program appeared to be a good fit for the FIS program.

“It allows for all of the instructors to be in the room with their students during the seminar,” Craig said.

Evans said Zoom allows for groups of majors within the science discipline to remain together throughout the seminar, facilitating a sense of camaraderie and suiting small group activities that are central to the course’s design. Because of those groupings, Evans said advisers could also be on hand for specialized questions.

“One of the goals of this class is advisory,” she said. “That includes making sure that students have what they need to succeed, and this allows for that in a way we haven’t been able to offer before.”

As useful as it has been for FIS, Evans and Craig both said the Zoom application likely has a place at Rockhurst beyond the seminar.

“The idea with using it here was to see if this would work,” Craig said of the initial test in the seminar. “We now can start making it available to all Rockhurst faculty and staff.”

The ability to simulcast live means that multiple classrooms can tune in to the same lecture and popular University events can be broadcast to overflow crowds. But Craig said lectures can also be recorded, allowing professors to create “flipped classrooms” where students watch a lecture at home and come prepared to discuss or work on the material in class, giving teachers an opportunity to assist students as needed.

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