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The pandemic has inspired some professors to be creative in teaching as they try to transfer face-to-face courses to the Internet in a fascinating way.

At Stanford University, a hugely popular lecture used a huge video wall to allow professors to see as many of the 250 students in the course as possible at the same time and try to read the virtual room the same way they were in the auditorium.

“There is no’emotion’ on Zoom,” said Rob Reich, one of the professors, noting how boring it is to look at a screen full of small video boxes. He said, at best, “You know whether it is good or bad.”

Courses on ethics, public policy, and technological change have been offered in person for several years, aiming to make students think about difficult issues in technological ethics. It is co-taught by computer science professor Mehran Sahami and two political science professors Reich and Jeremy Weinstein.

Of course, not all organizations happen to have video walls that are 32 feet wide and 8 feet high. But Stanford University has done it, in its Wallenberg Hall. So the three professors contacted Bob Smith, the university’s director of classroom innovation, to see what they could do.

No matter how big your screen is, Zoom can only display up to 49 people in each session. Therefore, the class is divided into three different Zoom courses, each with a maximum of 100 students. Then, a teaching assistant helps to transfer all three sessions to the fourth room, so that you can control which speaker is used in each person’s feed, but can engage the user in any Zoom session.

“Think of it as a four-party video conference, where the three parties themselves are video conferences,” Smith wrote in an email.

Due to the COVID agreement, only one professor at a time lectures in a room with a video wall, without a mask, so he can project naturally. Two other masked professors will wait on the bench in the corridor for their turn to approach the microphone and face the remote student’s video wall.

Even with all these technologies, Reich said it is still difficult to get the feel of the room. “The ability to see the body language and facial expressions of the entire group is still very limited to understand how a particular moment in the class is played for everyone,” he told EdSurge.

Reich added that one of the main benefits of merging multiple different Zoom sessions is that it allows everyone in a large class to be assigned to a breakout room for group discussions.

Stanford Magazine Posted a picture In class, Weinstein spoke to the video wall.

Stephen Downes, national online learning technology expert, long-term operation Old daily, Wrote that he hopes to see this picture in a large number of edtech conference presentations promoting the miracle of digital teaching. As he put it: “Over time, this is one of those images that are destined to become fabricated, just like that’learning machine’ photo or’giant blackboard’ photo.”

At the same time, the professors packaged the materials in the course into an upcoming book, “System errors: where the big tech companies went wrong and how we restarted.”

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