Champlain College professor creates online virtual platform

Published: Dec. 7, 2020 at 8:22 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Some educators are making bigger online virtual platforms work, others are creating their own.

InSpace was the idea of a data science professor at Champlain College after some other online platforms weren’t cutting it. So far it is being used at 52 colleges with more on board for a trial.

“It’s so much more engaging than typical video conferencing platforms,” said Kylie King, a professor of businesses and entrepreneurship at Champlain College.

King says battling low student engagement in the virtual classroom was a challenge, until one of her colleagues right here in Burlington, presented a solution.

“Students commented that it was the most fun they had all semester,” said King.

“It’s been a very smooth transition,” said Sami Jadallah, a student at Champlain College.

Jadallah says compared to other classes, his professors using InSpace has given him the best experience. One of the crucial points for him, watching the platform grow.

“There has been additional features coming in throughout the semester,” said Jadallah.

It has breakout rooms for discussion, proximity-based volume for side conversation, hand raising and even a whiteboard.

“It’s much closer to what we were actually experiencing in the classroom while still allowing for different virtual options,” said King.

For one professor at Champlain, Bjarne Holmes, it was something as simple as not being confined to a box that changed the game.

“The ability to do almost everything I can do in the classroom. I think it’s very crucial to have the freedom to move around,” said Holmes.

Professors say it wasn’t a surprise it began popping up all over campus.

“We haven’t actually done much marketing at all,” said Narine Hall, the co-creator of InSpace.

Hall created the platform with a team, found success on campus and began selling the software. And in a virtual world, there is no boundary, so far, reaching as far as Hawaii.

As of now, 52 colleges, like St. Michael’s College down the road and Bowdoin College in Maine, are trying it, with more on deck.

She describes it as a complement to Zoom or Microsoft Teams, or a replacement. Hall says the more schools, administrations and businesses trying it out, the stronger it becomes.

“In some ways, we crowdsource the wisdom of faculty into one software that we can all use together,” said Hall.

And with a 20-person team of only teachers and engineers making the software, educators are logging on to something built by the small school on the lake.

“I think it’s absolutely key to have the people who are using it be the people that are building it,” said Hall.

Their most recent endeavor is partnering with professors from MIT to look into the psychological effects of different virtual platforms on the experience of the user, especially younger kids who are still in the developmental stage.

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