Westminster College Announces State-of-the-Art Innovations in Virtual Classroom Technology

Fulton, MO ‒ Oct. 14, 2020: Westminster College is at the forefront of virtual classroom technology through its innovative, campus-wide use of Digital Blue Anywhere.

The 18 classrooms recently outfitted with the latest in Zoom Room technology sync seamlessly with the College’s existing Digital Blue program.

Through the Digital Blue initiative, every student and faculty member began receiving a current generation Apple iPad tablet and Apple pencil beginning in Fall Semester 2019. Those devices today are being used to connect in a way that goes beyond typical Zoom meeting technology.

Digital Blue Anywhere rooms are each outfitted with three 65-inch televisions, a camera that aims and zooms, two sound bars that listen to and identify each individual in a classroom, and an iPad controller that operates everything in the room. Students who Zoom in from other locations, via their Digital Blue iPads or personal computers, witness class in real time.

Class participation through Digital Blue Anywhere is up close and personal: Each remote attendee appears on classroom screens that allow all participants to simultaneously share content together. In addition, classroom participants can be heard, regardless of their position in the room.

Associate Professor of English Dr. Nate Leonard, Apple Teacher and Apple Learning Academy Specialist, explains that the cutting-edge technology is a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic, when quarantines are routine.

“This technology allows us to seamlessly integrate students attending class in person with online participants, which is obviously extremely helpful during a pandemic, when students are unable to attend class due to potential exposure or a positive diagnosis,” Leonard says.

Sophomore Veronica Toebben of Loose Creek, MO, agrees. “It makes the best of a not-great situation,” the English major says. “It’s a whole lot better than kids just being on their iPads, which doesn’t work as well.”

Digital Blue Anywhere also takes some burden off faculty, who at times find themselves teaching their classes twice, once in person and once later, recording and uploading their lectures for those in quarantine.

And while current COVID-19 cases on the Westminster campus are extremely low, the possibilities for Digital Blue Anywhere go beyond a pandemic.

Leonard explains, “This technology also will allow our faculty to incorporate outside speakers and online resources into our classes in new and exciting ways.”

Instructors now can connect multiple classrooms, instantly permitting two or more sections of the same course to be taught by one individual.

Digital Blue Anywhere also potentially changes how administrative and other meetings take place, especially for those who must travel great distances.

The potential for Digital Blue Anywhere — made possible through CARES Act funding — comes as no surprise to those at Westminster, which moved quickly on updating its classrooms this summer.

Nick Watson, Associate Vice President of Information Technology, says the process was relatively seamless because Westminster was already at the technological forefront during the quarantine earlier this year.

“Digital Blue became indispensable when we went virtual during the COVID-19 pandemic last spring,” Watson says.  

Within days, Westminster students seamlessly connected with one another and their professors via their iPads and accessed real-time lectures, wrote and shared personal notes, and conveniently accessed all class materials through the iPad’s Canvas app. The devices also benefited students whose homes either did not have computers or whose parents and siblings were sharing devices.

Watson says that Digital Blue Anywhere brings a world of possibilities to the College.

“Through the use of this technology, we will be able to deliver our unique classroom interactions and experiences to students wherever the world takes them,” Watson reflects. “Going forward I’d like to expand this to our labs. Imagine being able to experience the restoration of a 66 million-year-old triceratops in real time!”

Founded in 1851 and home of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech, Westminster College in Fulton, MO, is ranked prestigiously by U.S. News & World Report as a National Liberal Arts College. The institution is in the top 15 percent for graduate earnings and boasts a 98 percent placement rate. Westminster also is a ForbesBest Value College. Westminster focuses on educating and inspiring students to find the power in their purpose in order to become the world leaders of tomorrow.

To find out more about Westminster, please visit our website.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Sarah Backer at 573-220-9038 or Sarah.Backer@WCMO.edu.

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