G. Mittenecker1, G. Schweizer2

1FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences (AUSTRIA)
2t-med (Georg und Gabriele Schweizer) (AUSTRIA)
Various types of virtual classroom scenarios have been used in experimental as well as real school and university environments. In virtual classrooms teachers and students communicate with each other via live conferencing tools over the internet. This paper describes our implementation and practical experiences with a specific type of virtual classroom, the Live-Classroom. The difference to most other virtual classroom scenarios is that there is both a real in-person audience as well as an - often much larger - online internet audience in the Live-Classroom. This means that the lecturer speaks to both the real and the online students. The aim of this paper is to explain the architecture of our Live-Classroom implementation, construction of our prototype system, and practical experiences from real teaching sessions.

The intention for the benefit of the Live-Classroom scenario is to combine didactical advantages of the classic in-person classroom with the efficiency of online internet delivery. Typical sizes for the in-person classroom range from 10 to 30 students while the online audience can be easily scaled to hundreds or even thousands of participants. An additional goal of our project was to restrict the technological effort to a “lightweight” minimum number of existing standardized hardware and software components and a reliable internet streaming service. After an analysis and comparison of different implementation possibilities, our prototype was successfully implemented on a standard business laptop computer, connected two standard web cams and two microphones, as well as a software configuration that can be handled by just the presenting teacher without the need of any technical support personnel. The main software component used is the Open Broadcaster Software (OBS). StreamingVideoProvider was selected due to technical and scalability as well as economic reasons for the video streaming service.

The prototype of the Live-Classroom is the first of its kind, and so it cannot be directly compared to other systems. Our practical test phase consisted of a series of courses using the Live-Classroom prototype. As a result, we could prove the feasibility of the general didactical ideas with the successful delivery of the course contents to the in-person as well as to the online students. Feedback from the students as well as from the teacher was generally positive and encouraging. Users´ remarks were used to optimize the prototype hardware as well as the software settings. The Live-Classroom now enables presenters to reach a large number of participants in their familiar surroundings. So it provides a flexible infrastructure for high quality learning scenarios, giving the students and the teacher a productive environment while dramatically increasing the efficiency by reaching much larger audiences with the comfort of internet delivery - without the need of travelling for most participants.

The Live-Classroom has the potential to become an easy to implement future learning concept with a strong impact on e-learning and distance-learning.