Barco’s Virtual Classroom at UCL: A Case Study for the Future of All University Classrooms?

Barco weConnect at IESE

Barco’s weConnect virtual classroom in use at IESE Business School. Image: Barco

Come fall 2020, every university will be approaching students’ return to campus a little differently. What’s clear is that the notion of the hybrid/HyFlex classroom (or whatever you want to call it) is rapidly gaining traction among the AV community — especially as we start to realize how integral audiovisual technology will be to the success of the reimagined classroom in 2020 and beyond.

In early July, rAVe BlogSquad writer Scott Tiner wrote, “A HyFlex classroom is not, ‘Let’s turn on Zoom and let the people who could not be here today listen in.’ HyFlex means you never know who will be in the class, who will be remote and who will watch a recording later.”

Could the Barco weConnect-UCL (University College London) partnership be a stepping-stone example for the coming-soon HyFlex model we will start to see in all university classrooms in this new world? As noted, while weConnect isn’t HyFlex without the students in the classroom, Tiner agrees the technology could demonstrate the type of installation that would be valuable in a HyFlex classroom: “I can picture the monitors further from the instructor, with sets of desks between them,” Tiner said.

rAVe’s Gary Kayye added, “You can actually install this in an existing classroom. In this particular example, they built a studio inside of a classroom building. But I plan to build this, using this exact system, inside of an actual classroom at UNC so that the professor is teaching two local students with the screens behind them so they’re able to have face-to-face instruction with the remote students, simultaneously.”

Below is the story of weConnect at UCL, as told by Barco.

Virtual Classroom From Barco to Expand Reach of University College London’s Professional Development

The prestigious University College London (UCL) — which has been educating doctors and scientists in London since 1834 — is a leader in multidisciplinary research. UCL has been ranked number one in Europe for medical technology (QS World University Rankings), with more than 13,000 staff and 42,000 students from 150 countries. UCL offers more than 675 post-graduate-taught, research and initial teacher education programs across a wide range of disciplines, so when considering a collaboration platform for virtual learning, it was clear that this top research university needed a reliable solution for real-time remote teaching/distance learning, two-way engagement, an international learning and an enriched teaching/debate experience.

UCL selected the Barco weConnect virtual classroom technology as one of its teaching platforms for its CPD (Continuing Professional Development) medical education offering. Thanks to weConnect, UCL’s Division of Surgery and Interventional Science can now offer a more engaging remote teaching experience and expand its audience across continents.

Real-time remote teaching (and real-time distance learning)

With the selection of Barco weConnect, UCL educators want to address the growing need for remote teaching in an engaging, interactive learning environment — both for the teacher and the student. UCL also wants to use the platform to connect globally with other surgeons and medical experts.

The institute has always had an international focus, but with the recent spread of COVID-19, the need to connect with experts in Europe, the Americas and Asia, who are at the forefront of COVID-19 expertise, has only increased. Professor John Kelly, consultant urological surgeon specializing in robotic surgery for bladder and prostate cancer at UCL, comments: “There are many platforms to connect, but we have found that we can use Barco’s system in a way that is not possible with other technologies. The way teachers and students can interact is unparalleled, and therefore, this system comes right on time.”

UCL uses the weConnect platform for synchronous teaching, where remote students can interact with a trainer and/or lecturer. Teachers can see the students’ faces up close and they can interact with them through polls, questions and whiteboarding. Engaging never was so easy.

Two-way engagement

“If people connect to online learning at home, it can still be interactive, but it’s not as interactive as with Barco’s weConnect, where students are virtually in the front row, and know they can be asked a question any time,” says Dr. Justin Collins, urological surgeon at University College London Hospitals. “The real-time interaction and feedback that is made possible by weConnect drives student engagement and enable teachers to understand the levels of engagement.”

“One of the main advantages we are particularly proud of is that weConnect enables two-way engagement,” says Jan van Houtte, director of teaching & learning at Barco. “Our solution enables open-line discussions in a moderated, controlled and meaningful way. The healthcare market is extremely demanding, and the selection of weConnect by UCL shows the robustness of the Barco solution. In general, we notice an increased interest in Barco’s weConnect. These changing times are an accelerator for virtual classrooms.”

Barco weConnect via rAVe video

rAVe [PUBS] coverage of Barco weConnect at UBTech 2019

High-end healthcare education, for international students too

Working with a virtual classroom environment allows you to overcome any restrictions on travel. Professor John Kelly comments: “There was an assumption that if you want high-quality education, you need to travel. But we have come to realize that with innovative technology like weConnect, this is no longer true. The system even enables us to offer a much better environment in some respects. COVID-19 might have been the catalyst for this, but we were already moving in this direction.”

Barco weConnect

Barco’s weConnect virtual classroom in use at IESE Business School. Image: Barco

Enriched teaching experience & enhanced debates

weConnect allows UCL’s Division of Surgery and Interventional Science to get more out of its teaching sessions and, as a result, the institute is already thinking to use the platform for more applications. One of the biggest advantages, according to Dr. Justin Collins, is that the platform can collect data about the course of the class: “When you teach, you usually need to ask questions to confirm that people have understood what you’re saying. With the virtual classroom, the online responses that confirm understanding are collected as data in real time via polls and the interactive whiteboard.”

UCL is also using weConnect for scientific research and publications. The so-called Delphi process, where key opinion leaders on a certain subject matter discuss and aim to reach a consensus, is another application where the Barco virtual classroom is an excellent application. The first accelerated Delphi process has taken place early May with contribution of 24 KOLs. The whole process, which normally takes months, was successfully completed in 48 hours.

weConnect VirtualClassroom IESE studentwallview jpg

Barco’s weConnect virtual classroom in use at IESE Business School. Image: Barco

Get more info

According to the Barco customer story, key benefits of weConnect in this application include:

  • Front row experience for both student and teacher
  • Direct interaction with students through polls, questions and whiteboarding
  • Allows you to track student engagement in real time
  • Supports the Delphi process with open-line discussions in a moderated and controlled way

View the original press release for this case study from Barco here. Per the release, if you want more info, Jan van Houtte from Barco is your friend.