Lily Wong, an instructor at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, opens her laptop and links to the five motion-detecting smart screens fixed to the walls in front of and beside her desk. She opens her Zoom room, and one by one, remote students replace the names in the digital blocks as the clock ticks closer to the start of class.
It’s a Monday during the fall 2022 semester, and she's teaching back-to-back classes in one of the soundproof ASU Sync Studios housed in the Payne Hall building on the Tempe campus.
In the time remaining before class, Wong arranges the class’ daily outline, assignments and vocabulary list on the remaining open screens. She teaches mathematics to future K–8 teachers, and today’s lesson starts with communicating math vocabulary effectively.
Satisfied with the arrangement, she addresses the students and class begins.
“I get a better feel for the room because I can see my students' faces and reactions while reviewing class content,” Wong said. “I can see acknowledgment of understanding or their questioning faces.”
As the two-hour, fully remote, synchronous class progresses, Wong navigates the five screens effortlessly, toggling from student to assignment to herself.
“I think a lot of the teachers' frustration with Zoom is managing all of the students and the buttons,” Wong said. “But having multiple screen options — for example, a chat screen or another screen to see students' faces — gives the feeling like you're actually in the classroom together.”
This is the ASU Sync Studio experience she’s come to love when teaching fully remote, synchronized classes.
ASU Sync is the university’s third learning modality — alongside fully immersive and online. It provides students with technology-enhanced, fully interactive remote learning.
Now, faculty can teach out of one of the three Sync Studios at the Tempe or Downtown campuses to enhance remote students' connectivity and learning experience.
The studios are mostly soundproof and come equipped with multiple monitors, a livestream camera, a surround sound bar and a touchscreen desktop.
"They're not having to just work through one computer, one Zoom space, fiddling around with a lot of moving parts,” said Celia Coochwytewa, manager of collaborative learning for ASU Enterprise Technology’s Learning Experience, which provides access to faculty workshops, consultations and resources to better connect teaching and technology. “Everything Zoom offers is right in front of the instructor with access to multiple monitors and studio-ready tools.”
And remote students are taking notice of the studio experience.
“I’ve been a virtual student for almost three years because of COVID-19,” said Shanti Oza, a sophomore majoring in elementary education. “And I appreciate how Ms. Wong took the time to connect with us on a personal level by creating an interactive learning environment.”
Looking ahead, the teams at Learning Experience plan to gather instructor and student feedback to enhance the experience of using the Sync Studios — both as instructor and learner, said Coochwytewa.
“We're going to see more synchronized classes needing this type of space to provide remote students with an in-person experience,” Coochwytewa said. “But with all the flexibility of being online.”
ASU faculty can visit the Learning Experience website to learn more about using Sync Studios.
“Teaching students in the studio is definitely the way to go versus having to teach from a computer screen at home or wherever I am,” Wong said. “It’s the next best thing to teaching in person.”
Written by Kevin Pirehpour; video by Alisha Mendez