NSC classroom updates showcase UB’s dynamic potential

Students attend a chemistry lecture in a UB lecture hall.

Photo by Dennis Reed, Jr.

Published September 7, 2022

by Blake Cooper

Amid the bustle of a new school year, you might have missed the transformational changes taking shape in UB’s Natural Sciences Center, where cutting-edge classroom technology is serving a learning and teaching experience unlike any on campus.

Print

NSC’s largest lecture halls (201 and 225), each of which seat up to 350 students, have been fully redesigned around technology that makes teaching more fluid and learning more immersive:

  • 30-foot wide video wall displays up to two inputs at once, side-by-side, on a revolutionary backlit display visible to everyone in the room at any ambient light level.
  • Student microphones at every other seat provide a direct way for students (when enabled by the instructor) to ask questions or provide responses that can be heard by everyone in the room and anyone joining online.
  • The chalkboard camera projects the instructor’s work at the front of the classroom to all students. It also makes it possible for instructors to share their chalkboard with students virtually on Zoom.

One simple goal: a world-class education for all

UB Professor Dietrich Kuhlmann teaches uses the document camera to project his handwritten notes to the class, and anyone watching online. Photo by Dennis Reed, Jr.

“These new spaces are truly dynamic learning environments,” according to Chris Clune, Director of IT Customer Service, whose team oversaw the transformation, “complete with the ability to display document cameras, PowerPoints, content sharing from personal devices, etc. With the faculty’s chalkboard content on the screen, it’s as if a student in the back row were at the front of the class.”

UBIT designed the latest technology enhancements in NSC classrooms around one goal: to provide an immersive and equitable experience to every student who attends class there, whether in-person or virtually.

With more powerful networks and audiovisual tools making collaboration possible in new ways, UBIT had been laying the groundwork for the teaching technology revolution for the last decade. When the pandemic hit, UBIT leveraged that groundwork to help UB faculty transition rapidly to remote teaching, all the while learning from their challenges and success stories.

Critically, faculty told UBIT that the challenges of remote teaching were not that different from teaching in large lecture halls: specifically, finding ways to engage students despite the distance—whether physical or virtual—between instructors and students.

So when it came time to update the NSC classrooms, UBIT focused on removing barriers to teaching effectively in a large room of students, while also providing flexibility for hybrid and HyFlex models of course delivery.

NSC rooms a high-tech showstopper

To UB Vice President and Chief Information Officer Brice Bible, these classrooms are more than just highly efficacious learning and teaching environments—they’re also a powerful symbol of the potential of the UB community.

“[The 30-foot, dual displays] are showpiece installations for the university and are a key stop for prospective student tours,” Bible noted. “The reaction from those prospective students and parents is always ‘Wow - that is awesome!’. It’s really great to be able to showcase the quality education we offer here at the University at Buffalo.”

More on UB’s high-tech classrooms

UB faculty and instructors can visit buffalo.edu/ubit/classroom for detailed guides, along with step-by-step videos, walking through every aspect of teaching technology at the University at Buffalo, from unlocking your teaching station to incorporating live, virtual guests into your in-person lectures.

UBIT also offers one-on-one, hands-on support for classroom technology. UB instructors can request a consultation online, or call 716-645-3542 (press ‘2’ for classroom support) to schedule a session with a classroom technology expert in their classroom.