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Virtual Education Platform Emulates Face-to-Face Interactions

Champlain College is piloting a new virtual education platform that allows students and instructors to interact online much like they would in physical spaces. Conceived by Narine Hall, a data science and machine learning professor at the college, and recently formed as a private company, InSpace is "designed to mirror the fluid, personal and interactive nature of a real classroom," according to a news announcement.

In the InSpace environment, each participant is represented by video circle. Users can click and drag their video circle to move around the virtual space. They can zoom out to view the entire space, or zoom in to focus on specific areas. When users' video circles are in close proximity, they can hear and converse with each other; as they move away, the audio fades. Other features include:

  • Breakout rooms for small group collaboration or private discussions;
  • Screen sharing for presentations; and
  • Broadcast mode, to allow one user to speak to the entire group at once.

"We want our students to experience a feeling of belonging to a school, to a classroom, and to a group, but still have the ability to connect personally in one-on-one conversations," said Hall, in a statement. "Our main purpose is to have education work better in a virtual setting. Teachers need to be able to recognize individual strengths, motivate students to build on them, and help remove roadblocks that are unique to each student. InSpace is focused on these essential realities."

"InSpace shows what is possible when institutions of higher learning approach the pandemic as an opportunity to pivot to innovative solutions," commented Benjamin Ola. Akande, president of the college. "By building on what makes Champlain special — our entrepreneurial mindset, personal connections, and innovative technology — InSpace is reinventing virtual learning at Champlain and beyond."

Currently in beta testing, InSpace will be available to other colleges and universities starting in November. For more information, visit the InSpace site.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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