While some students might be hesitant to return to in-person classes, Pierce College is now offering a new online accommodation.
The Meeting OWL is a camera that follows the teacher around the classroom so that students who are attending class via Zoom can still see and hear their professor at all times, along with students in the room.
The high-tech camera isn’t available in every hybrid class, but Professor Ken Windrum has already had some experience teaching with the Owl.
Windrum, who has been teaching since 1998, said that the Owl has been a great addition to his lectures.
“It seems to be a great solution so that students can choose to be in the room or to be on Zoom, and you can accommodate both,” Windrum said.
The Owl has a simple design and works very discreetly. It’s voice-activated so as long as the professor is talking, the camera will know to follow.
Windrum explained that the camera allows for more flexibility during his Zoom meetings.
“If you have a live class, you don’t want to be sitting just looking into your monitor,” Windrum said. “You want to be able to walk around. You want to be able to look at the students.”
Professor Windrum has used this device for only a handful of meetings. So while he’s still learning exactly how to operate the device, Sean Collins-Smith has been at his side to make sure things go smoothly.
Collins-Smith has had hands-on experience with the Owl, he’s gotten to see how it all works and has some high praise for the high-tech camera.
“It makes it a super efficient way to teach people who are in the classroom and people who are not in the classroom simultaneously,” Collins-Smith said.
Collins-Smith said he found the classroom tool to be fairly easy to operate.
“It’s not difficult to operate,” Collins-Smith said. “As long as you train with it and learn how to use it properly, it’s fine, it’s perfectly simple to use.”
There are only two Owl cameras currently being used on campus.
Professor Erin Hayes, who has also been using the camera for her lectures, said that the flexibility has already proven to be valuable.
“I have one student who was in a situation where they weren’t sure if they were going to be able to continue with the class,” said Hayes in a Zoom interview. “When that student found out that they were going to be able to continue the class, even if they had to move or do something different, because they could do it remotely, they were so happy.”
Hayes recommends that this gadget be used in more classes around Pierce.
“I think it works very well for lecture classes,” Hayes said. “It’s important for our students and that’s what we should be doing. We as teachers should be adapting ourselves to the needs of our students.”