Meeting Owl Pro Adds Flexibility for Teaching and Learning

July 13, 2020

by UNH IT Staff

Enterprise Technology & Services (ET&S) is preparing concurrent classrooms for the fall semester, making it possible for faculty to teach students both remotely and in-person simultaneously.

Along with turning 193 University System of New Hampshire (USNH) classrooms into Zoom-capable spaces, ET&S is also providing faculty with the Meeting Owl Pro, a new mobile device that can be connected to Zoom and placed in the classroom on a tripod to capture 360-degree, high-definition video and audio for remote participants. This link provides an overview of using a Meeting Owl Pro in the classroom (Owl info: https://youtu.be/GJ4NYrk5hiU).

The Meeting Owl Pro spotlights each speaker in the room and displays them in a separate window on Zoom. This unit can be controlled by a mobile app (iOS or Android), with a feature that allows faculty to lock the camera on any section of the room. All units are assigned to specific classrooms.

ET&S has tested these units to understand the limitations of the technology and the impact on faculty and the student experience. This includes audio tests with instructors and students wearing masks, and also demonstrations to measure the best text size for whiteboard content. 

A student views a course remotely that is broadcast with the Meeting Owl Pro

In the coming weeks, ET&S will publish guidelines on best practices for use in classroom settings as well as how-to documentation.

Craig Hopkins works for ET&S and is the technical lead for the Owl project. His team is working on testing, training and developing guidelines for the Owl’s use.

“Our overall approach was identifying the strengths and weaknesses of using this device in a classroom environment,” Hopkins said. “The main objective is to create guidelines for faculty and realistic expectations for how the device performs in a classroom.”

Hopkins identified the device’s strengths as being “speaker performance and microphone pickup, as well as the camera.”

His team identified two major limitations during testing: the inability of the Owl’s camera to consistently detect and display writing on a whiteboard, and the microphone’s difficulty at clearly picking up participants who wear masks or face shields.

Some of the best practices identified by this team for faculty include correct positioning of the device, the use of screen sharing for PowerPoint slides over trying to capture these images on the camera and repeating in-room audience questions for remote participants.

Overall, Hopkins cautioned that the device is not perfect for every classroom application. 

“Flexibility is required,” he said.

ET&S is developing demonstrations and will train faculty on how to use the devices. Faculty can connect the Meeting Owl Pro with their laptop, set the Zoom speaker, microphone, and video preferences to match the device, and start using it.

The Meeting Owl Pro will be available to faculty at Keene State College, Plymouth State University, UNH Durham and UNH Manchester.

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