Sacred Scripture, philosophy, theology and homiletics are among the standard fare of course offerings that the Saint Vincent Seminary faculty is used to providing. However, during a recent meeting, faculty members learned about things such as gooseneck microphones, LAN cables, camera controllers and other associated technology. It was a form of in-service training to help them learn the ins and outs of the recently-completed technology classroom in the John and Annette Brownfield Center.
Sponsored by the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association, the Distance Learning Center was planned long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Thus, work was completed over the winter break and the classroom was ready for use by faculty members in the spring 2021 semester.
Faculty members were already accustomed to using videoconference technology to attend meetings and to communicate with students. The new technology classroom adds even more capabilities. Two cameras capable of rotating and covering the entire room are in place in the classroom, one in the front, and one in the back. There are microphones for every desk, each with enough range to pick up questions from two people seated at each desk. (During the pandemic, classroom norms have students at one person to a desk.)
Two large screens at the front of the classroom can project a speaker, such as Rector Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B., who called in for the faculty meeting. A third large monitor on a wheeled cart, connected to a 100-foot fiber optic cable, can be moved around the classroom for more interaction with the students, depending on the needs of the instructor.
During the training, Father Edward appeared both on the large screen and on the wheeled cart, as he interacted with the faculty members with ease. The controllers at the front of the room, which also allow the professor to connect a laptop computer, were operated by Father Boniface Hicks, O.S.B., who has a doctorate in computer science. Thus the faculty members could see, for demonstration purposes, a screen split with Father Edward, and both classroom cameras showing themselves and the presenters. Father Boniface then switched to content on his laptop.
Instructors can present material in slideshow format, play a video from the internet, connect with a speaker via videoconference software, or display content that they have created. The controller also allows for the classroom session to be recorded and captured on a removable device such as a USB drive or a memory card just like a photographer or videographer would insert into a camera. All audio from participants, such as the desktop microphones or the instructor’s lavalier or gooseneck microphone, is mixed into one feed for the recorded version.
“The FCSLA Distance Learning Center provides Saint Vincent Seminary with the most effective technology to use in the formation of our future priests and lay ecclesial ministers, and in the work of evangelization,” said Father Edward. “It has already been a great help to our faculty in teaching during the time of COVID, and it will be a boon for us as we move beyond the pandemic and continue the work we have been doing at Saint Vincent for 175 years—preparing the next generation of the Church’s faithful and leaders.”
“I join the entire faculty and student body of Saint Vincent Seminary in extending my gratitude to the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association and all of its Branches and members for their great generosity in helping us to establish the FCSLA Distance Learning Center— Zdar Boh!”