The Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) belongs to the district of Bern in Switzerland. Studying at BFH provides the students with the practical grounding they need for a successful career. From Architecture to Midwifery to Wood Engineering, the BFH offers a wide range of Bachelor's and Master's degree programs.
Due to the nature of the coursework taught at BFH, where students work with machinery and engineering devices, it was challenging to think about what the right solution would be to deliver classes virtually to students learning from home during Covid-19. Christoph Röthenmund, Senior Project Leader at BFH, was responsible for testing and creating a hybrid learning environment for the school in a short period of time to accommodate students who would be learning from home due to quarantine or other health-related risk factors.
"In only three months, I had to research solutions to set up a hybrid learning environment in all 350 classrooms across our campus. We'd previously tried holding in-person classes, but when case numbers started rising in Switzerland, we knew we'd have to set up a mixed learning environment that would enable students to learn and stay engaged from home."
Christoph had to quickly start researching and testing solutions in August 2020, and he found that many of the top video conferencing cameras in-market were backordered or sold out. After asking his contacts at other smaller universities around the world how they were preparing for hybrid learning, he learned about the Meeting Owl, so he ordered one to test its capabilities on his own.
"After testing the Meeting Owl and showing it to our university's department responsible for academic studies and classroom design, we all agreed that the Meeting Owl was perfect for our students because it gives the feeling of being truly present in the classroom."
Setup and Use Case:
Christoph ordered 100 Meeting Owls and installed them across the campus's classrooms and meeting rooms to be used for hybrid learning and virtual faculty and staff meetings. The number of remote students varies from class to class, so the Meetings Owls are mounted on tripods so they can be easily moved to different classrooms, depending on the need.
When Christoph first set up the Meeting Owls across the BFH campus, he recorded YouTube demonstrations and instructional videos and held campus-wide training sessions to show the teaching staff hands-on how to use the device.
BFH uses the Meeting Owl in tandem with the Inogeni Share2U and built-in classroom presentation devices to power their hybrid classrooms. The Inogeni device allows teachers to easily toggle between different in-classroom video and audio devices to show remote students the view of the classroom, the whiteboard, or the projector at any given time — or multiple views simultaneously.
The Meeting Owl in a BFH classroom setup
Classes are held using Microsoft Teams, where students can toggle between or pin the presentation or Meeting Owl view in the classroom, depending on which view they want to focus on.
According to Christoph:
"By using the combination of the Meeting Owl along with the Inogeni device, we're able to provide students at home with the experience of being in the classroom, whether their professor is leading a discussion or sharing a presentation. With the typical video conferencing setup, remote students can only see the presentation or the room. With our configuration, they can still see their classmates and the professor if they're whiteboarding or sharing a presentation, too."
The Meeting Owl and the Inogeni Share2U in a BFH classroom
Christoph has gotten tremendous positive feedback from students and the teaching staff since rolling out the Meeting Owl across the campus this year.
"Our students appreciate the feeling the Meeting Owl delivers. The 360° view and the auto-focusing capabilities means they always see a dynamic view of the classroom that's more interesting for remote learners and makes them feel like they're sitting in the classroom."
Lecturers, meanwhile, cite the ease of use and the freedom to teach how they please as reasons why they love the Meeting Owl.
"Our teaching staff is happy that the Meeting Owl lets them move around the classroom and use different tools to get their message across. Whether they're walking around the classroom or writing on the whiteboard, the Meeting Owl tracks them, so they don't have to adapt their teaching style for remote students."
The Meeting Owl was BFH's solution for Covid-19, but Christoph is certain that there will be use cases for the Meeting Owl even when all students have returned to campus.
"We may not always use the Meeting Owl in bachelor-level classes, but we offer a lot of classes for continuing education courses, where students often have to attend classes in the evenings or on the weekend. We used to get a lot of requests to allow these students to attend classes remotely. Now that we have the Meeting Owl, advanced learning will be available to more students in the future."
Christoph also anticipates that BFH will continue to use their Meeting Owls in their 30+ meeting rooms across the campus for staff and faculty meetings.
"We often have teachers who are moving between different campuses for their classes, so the Meeting Owl will make it easier for them to attend important meetings without having to travel."
Lots of other universities have contacted Christoph since he implemented the Meeting Owl to ask for his recommendation on how to outfit their campus for hybrid learning. To them, he explains:
"The Meeting Owl is the best device if you want to give students the feeling of being in the classroom when they can't physically be there. It creates better connections between students and teachers and the campus and university community."
To learn more about how other schools are using the Meeting Owl to facilitate hybrid learning, read more of our case studies.