With students returning to classes and hybrid classes joining in-person students with virtual ones, Utah State University has upgraded some of its classrooms to help facilitate discussions. Using an app called Crowd Mic, it allows virtual students to hear the comments of their in-person classmates, allowing for uninterrupted discussion and learning.
The app uses the microphone in student’s cell phones to transmit their voices into the classroom microphone system and to any remotely connected sessions, such as Zoom. This helps teachers hold in-class discussions where some students are attending remotely.
“We wanted the students to still be able to be engaging in conversation with each other,” said Shane Thomas, director of Classroom Technologies & Media Productions. “Before using these student mics, our faculty members had to relay in-person student questions or answers to the virtual students. Now the students have their own voice and can communicate with the hybrid students, allowing for more interaction and engagement.”
Over the winter break, USU installed these microphone systems into 40 of its classrooms and plans on adapting more classrooms in the future. USU is one of the first universities in the country to use this system on a large scale.
“This is brand new, cutting edge technology,” Thomas said. “We are one of only two universities using it at this magnitude.”
Thomas said the university invested in this system after hearing from its faculty members. They raised concerns about having their students be more engaged in discussions with one another.
“This system has improved the engagement with all students in my classes,” said Paul Fjeldsted, Economics and Finance senior lecturer. “When the system works, it has definitely helped those on Zoom hear what is going on in class better, which has improved engagement.”
While the system is in its infancy and bugs are still being worked out, USU professors are glad to have the system in place and look forward to its aid in student participation and learning.
“It’s great to have another tool to improve engagement in the Zoom era,” Fjeldsted said. “When it works, it is very useful tool.”