Tuesday, November 13, 2012

WOW Vision

Yesterday a rep from WOW Vision came in to demo the product Mini Veos for us. Here's how it works.

Let's assume our active learning classroom is set up like this image on the left. We have 10 "pods," I will call them, in which students can work collaboratively, each with a computer and LCD monitor on the wall. There is also a main projector on each end of the room that is controlled by the instructor.

With Veos, the instructor could show anything displayed on one of the LCD displays on the main projector screen to discuss it with the class. Or, they could show up to 4 different displays in the 4 quadrants of the main projector. The instructor can preview the screen before displaying it.

Why? Instead of calling on the groups and asking them to explain what they've been working on, the instructor can show it and discuss it with the class for a richer experience. Some things, such as HTML coding, can't be explained well verbally and the instructor would have had to walk around and talk to the group individually. With a product such as this, the whole class can see what is going on and learn from the other groups.

So what are the students doing at each pod? There are options. Using an additional product called Team Veos, they could each be working on their own laptop or mobile device (not Android or Windows 8 yet) and controlling the LCD computer together. We tried this during the demo and found we were all fighting for control of the mouse when editing a Word document. I expected to see it on my laptop monitor at the same time but it only shows on the LCD. I argued that Google Docs could do the same thing but better and others countered that Team Veos would make it possible to collaborate on any type of software which is a good point. In this case, each student would need a device of some sort to participate equally, or they would have to be provided.

Alternatively, the students could all share one wireless mouse and keyboard per pod that could be passed around. This option would not need Team Veos and would be quite a bit less expensive. If the mouse can be controlled by only one person at a time, I don't see it as a huge issue to share a wireless mouse and keyboard. Am I missing something?

What if we don't have a "pod" set up or LCD? Another option is for the students to all bring a device and participate individually or in pairs. There is no limit to how many devices can be involved; the instructor can still share what is being displayed on an individual's laptop if it is running the software.

A main computer/projector is necessary. My colleague hoped that the instructor would be able to take over all of the LCDs and choose what to display on them, however, that would be a software modification which is quite expensive. Without the software modification, it is necessary to have a main screen controlled by the instructor. The initial goal was to get away from the centralized teaching station and projector screen, but that is not the way Veos is set up to work.

To reduce the price, additional features are ala carte. These include screen sharing among participants, recording, audience response, room combination, and classroom management (allowing the instructor to look at an individual's screen). There are more features, but I won't get into all of them here. Personally, I didn't find them to be incredibly important since there are other ways to do most of them. Sharing files is an example; they could be put on D2L.

I feel the need to add my opinion, but I don't really have one because I feel like this should just be how things work in an active learning classroom. It's like when you just expect something to be a certain way, but you don't realize it's actually a big deal to make it happen, so you're not that impressed when you learn about it but people who understand are impressed. I guess I was not particularly WOW'd but I may not be the best judge. Next week we're seeing ClickShare so I look forward to learning how it compares.

Update 1/13/2014: We have WOW vision in four rooms of our new education building. It has difficult to wrap my head around it because I had gotten used to the other active learning rooms we have on campus. First it's different because the students basically each need laptops to take advantage of it and it revolves around the main projection screens rather than the individual monitors. Here's what our current configuration does:

- The instructor can share any student's laptop screen to the projectors with or without the student's permission (they have to expect that when logged in, their screen could be shared at any time). Students have to request and be given permission to share; they couldn't just take over.
- The instructor cannot push the teaching station to either the pod's monitors or the individual laptops (that costs extra but we are getting the extra "modules" to test). Therefore, the students have to attend to the main screens like a typical lecture if the instructor is demonstrating something. It would be nice if they could see it closer because the room we were in was huge and I found it hard to see well. 
- At the pods, the group members can all collaborate with the pod computer/monitor. This is weird: what they're doing is controlling the pod computer with their computer. This could be handy when collaborating and using software that the university has but the students do not. Like I mention above, you have to fight to take control of the mouse. I guess my favorite part about it is that I could use the trackpad of my Mac, which is the best trackpad ever, and everyone keeps their germs to themselves (vs sharing a wireless mouse & keyboard).
-File sharing is possible too but, honestly, during the demo my mind became boggled with potential document version issues and I longingly thought of google docs or even the document collaboration in SharePoint. It could be nice for he instructor to share documents with the students though. The one modified collaboratively by the students saves currently on the C drive but it will be changed to save to the H drive of the person logged in. 
- There was a whole thing about sharing video but I don't understand why that would be necessary more than once in a blue moon. 

Now, our current rooms (Crestron) are pod-centered and do not require or benefit from individuals having laptops. The teaching station can share with all the pods (some rooms do not have projectors at all) and the instructor can share one pod with all the other pods. One advantage of WOW was the speed when switching in comparison to this system. 

I see two potential barriers with the WOW rooms:
1. Whether students consistently have devices to use. One student could use the pod computer but the others need their own devices and it is not very mobile friendly. The iPad app is probably more helpful to the instructor because Safari can be shown through it, and maybe PowerPoint slides (?). So it could help instructors get away from the teaching station. I guess the Android app is really iffy. Full Windows 8 works but RT does not. 
2. Whether installing the software and entering in the right numbers will be problematic. I wasn't able to follow the steps because my Mac had an issue with the software, maybe because I have the new operating system Mavericks, so there is a good possibility it's easier than it seemed. If students are borrowing a computer from the library it will need this software on it. Out of the three is us who walked over together, zero were able to participate with the devices we brought - an iPad, my Mac, and Laura's borrowed computer on which she was not an administrator and could not install software. 

I don't mean to end on a negative note! I think it is pretty cool but I struggled to comprehend it today - maybe because the room was about 100 degrees. It makes sense now that I've written it down. I'll try to remember to report back! 

Image from http://tech.msu.edu/news/2012/04/msu-offers-faculty-innovative-new-spaces-for-teaching-in-mcdonel-hall/ 


  1. Did you get a chance to look at ClickShare? I saw both that and VEOS in a demo today. I wondered what you thought and if you have seen any other competing products and what you think.

  2. Oops, just saw this comment now! We tried click share and liked it. It was so simple to use. It would be perfect for collaboration at the pods but if I remember correctly it didn't communicate with the teaching station. Make sure to check out what Crestron can do. I think it will be interesting to have options and get feedback from instructors who teach in both rooms.