Nagoya University Realizes HyFlex Learning In Large Lecture Halls With Hands-Free Audio Capture
Nagoya University originated from a Temporary Medical School/Public Hospital that was established in 1871. Today, it is one of Japan's leading comprehensive research universities with nine schools and 13 graduate schools. The university’s Higashiyama Campus houses the Faculty of Engineering which piloted the implementation of new hyflex learning facilities.
With the spread of COVID in Japan in early 2020, Nagoya University was forced to limit the number of students allowed to enter the campus. As a result, it began full-scale efforts to develop hybrid-flexible learning that allowed students to choose whether to attend classes face-to-face or online.
In this new setup, capturing classroom interactions for remote students turned out to be both an operational and health & safety issue. University lectures are not just one-way but involve interactive discussions and Q&A. To ensure that online participants could follow on-site conversations, a dedicated “mic runner” was needed in large lecture halls to move around the room and hand over microphones to students who wanted to speak.
Not only was this very labor intensive and disrupted course delivery, but the microphone also had to be disinfected every time. Nagoya University wanted to adopt a new hands-free sound capture method to replace the wireless handheld microphones and mic runner.
System integrator and education technology specialists Denshi Systems proposed a ceiling-mounted solution that included MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphones and IntelliMix P300 Audio Conferencing Processors.
The audio solution was deployed in several facilities across the Higashiyama Campus with an expedited install during the university’s spring break. Install locations included a large 300-seat lecture room, a 180-seat hall, and a conference room with a capacity of about 100 people.
These spaces were equipped with four or six MXA910s depending on room size. Even mounted at a height of up to 4 meters, the microphone’s ability to cover entire lecture halls and clearly capture all attending students exceeded the university’s expectations.
To improve voice quality and eliminate reverberations, noise, and echo, Denshi Systems further installed IntelliMix P300 DSPs for audio processing. A dedicated P300 was installed for each unit of MXA910 to individually process the 8 coverage zones of each microphone, and an additional DSP was used to combine audio into a single input into the Zoom conferencing platform.
The new solution has been in full-scale operation since April 2022.
For administrative teams, the setup has brought significant operational and efficiency improvements. Preparation time for each class has been drastically reduced as professors no longer have to request mic runners and secure handheld microphones.
The greatest impact has been in students’ learning experience and engagement. Issues with remote students not hearing what is said have been solved and everyone is now able to communicate barrier-free. Audiences who participate online appreciate that they are able to hear voices clearly and that conversations progress at a natural tempo. The increased opportunities for on-site students to speak out and contribute have also been a big gain and have improved the flow of discussions.
Beyond regular classes, the new ceiling-mounted audio capture solution is also used for event streaming and archiving, including alumni homecoming days, conferences, symposiums, graduation ceremonies, and inter-campus exchange events.
In future, Nagoya University plans to further expand its audiovisual setup for hyflex learning. As one of its priorities, it seeks to automate camera tracking – at the moment, a teaching assistant manually points a camera to talkers. Additionally, the university is also exploring a more advanced Voice Lift system to deliver more uniform sound throughout its teaching venues.
By capturing audio from the ceiling, mic runners have disappeared. This has not only made class management more efficient but students also have more opportunities to speak out.
Mr. Yuta Baba, Denshi System Co., Ltd.
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