Global Telepresence Room offers technological, learning innovations for students, faculty

Melissa Bloem/Staff Photographer A professor begins her course in the Telepresenter Room in the Health Professions building on Wednesday afternoon.

Innovative technology is allowing students and faculty to learn and teach in new, immersive ways in the Health Professions Building.

Billed at $350,000, the Global Telepresence Room merges together high-tech equipment with an immersive educational experience.

The room's four high-definition LED screens, four high-quality cameras, use of video conferencing technology and other equipment brings even those in other states or countries into the room and into the discussion.

"Telepresence means participating without actually being there and having a comparable experience," Associate Director of Applications Wesley Leonard said.

Leonard said the room, which opened in 2003, has mainly been used for presentations but is being increasingly used for classroom activities.

Leonard said technologies include the use of a Chipcast-equipped lectern, which can save presentations, audio clips and lectures for use at a later date for students, faculty or presenters.

"We wanted to go beyond 'audio-only'," he said. "It's very easy to lose the student if the production is not up to par."

Professor of physical therapy Pete Loubert uses the room for special classroom activities and was a part of the decision-making process regarding the creation of the room.

"(I helped decide everything from) which monitors to install to replace the old ones to real infrastructure decisions (in order) to make the room all digital," Loubert said.

He said the room's innovations can benefit other classrooms because the upgrades can be integrated across campus.

The classroom directly below the Global Telepresence Room, room 1255, uses similar technology.

Other universities are taking part and involving themselves with the room and the learning technology it possesses.

Michigan Technological University has partnered with CMU by co-teaching classes in the health professions field with instructors at CMU by using the available video-conferencing technology.

Through use of the room, associate professor of health sciences Irene O'Boyle co-taught "The Anatomy and Physiology of Speech and Hearing" with Michele Simms, a professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.

"Our students have grown up with this kind of environment," O'Boyle said. "My students thrived on it. They were so excited to be immersed with everything in that room."

Grand Blanc senior Sarah Hulett, who took O'Boyle's five-week class co-taught with Simms, said the video conferencing technology better aided her learning in the small nine-student class.

She said the technology used in the room could best be adapted in a smaller classroom with fewer students and helps students become better public speakers by using the room's technology.

"They could get input from other professors and students and participate within their own peers more," Hulett said.


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