Scaling and Streamlining the HELIX Portable Blended Classroom

Project: Scaling and Streamlining HELIX Portable Blended Classroom

Team: Christian Wisecarver, Christian Franco, Josh Casoni, and Henry Leitner

Mission: As hybrid learning becomes more normalized and utilized in today’s world, Harvard University will not only be expected to offer opportunities for blended collaboration, but to be at the forefront of this changing technological landscape. It is likely this sea change will continue even after the pandemic is over and Harvard returns to a “new normal” setting.  Outfitting an existing classroom with the necessary AV components to facilitate effective teaching and learning (where some students are in the room and others are remote) can cost upwards of $100k.  Such a project is both time-consuming and costly, as well as impermanent, as AV hardware generally has a lifespan of no more than 5 to 10 years.   At the other extreme, simply setting up a web conference on a projector in a classroom is not sufficient to achieve an active learning environment where there is equity across all students. This equity will be imperative for collaborating, now and in the future. The Innovation team at Harvard DCE has recently designed, built, and piloted the “HELIX Portable Blended Classroom”, a prototype that will allow us to turn any room on campus into a hybrid classroom for a fraction of the cost of a traditional AV renovation.  While the functionality of this station aims to achieve an equitable experience and incorporate pedagogical goals, automating its setup and support will greatly improve the ability to scale up this solution going forward.