To Succeed, Technology Must “Disappear”

For distance learning to deliver its full potential requires a smartly designed, well-crafted, and perfectly coordinated technology-plus-environment system that succeeds in creating the illusion that everyone is in the same room.  Paradoxically, to succeed, the technology must "disappear".



Inside Out or Outside In?

For teaching with technology to work, it must provide the necessary functions, be easy to use, and be reliable, foremost as perceived by the teachers and students who use it.  What makes Montgomery's approach so successful is that design is driven by the perceptions of users, coupled with empirical evidence of what works.  He takes as the starting point the point of view of a student in a space without boundaries, and then methodically applies psychometric and pedagogical principles appropriate to the purpose and users. This leads to an understanding of what is required of the learning space and the technology in order for learners to learn and teachers to teach.  With further development, the concepts become specifications that enable the space-technology system to be built and fulfill its mission.

Shouvlin Hall

Wittenberg University’s Shouvlin Hall Distance Learning Center

Wittenberg University needed to build a new distance learning facility for business executives to participate in classes from the Wharton school of business. Director of Audiovisual Services Lyndon McCurdy was put in charge of overseeing the creation of the quarter-million dollar facility. McCurdy recognized the need for a top-notch system that would meet the high standards to which Wittenberg and its demanding clients were accustomed. He chose Malcolm Montgomery, EduTech’s founder and president, to design the system and environment from concept to completion. Together, they established the following goals:

The videoconferencing technology would have to be so reliable and function so smoothly that it would seem to almost disappear; no matter how far apart participants might actually be, they would feel as though they were talking face-to-face in the same room.
When not in use for videoconferencing, the room would have to serve double-duty as an electronic classroom. It needed to have the same look and feel and be as easy to operate as Wittenberg's other electronic classrooms, despite its considerable complexity.
When not in use for classes, it would need to function as a small movie theater for students to enjoy in the evening.  This required an alternate control scheme that was easy to use without training, blocked access to videoconferencing and other unnecessary functions, limited the sound level to protect both ears and speakers from damage, and used a different, dedicated projector and screen configuration. Montgomery worked closely with McCurdy and the facilities staff that included Wittenberg's talented master craftsmen, who remodeled the room to meet perfectly the stringent specifications.  The result of that collaboration is this stunning distance learning facility that performs as well as its looks impress.

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Unusual Features That Make Shouvlin Hall a Success