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Lassonde School of Engineering at York University

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Lassonde School of Engineering at York University
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Creating a Virtual, Interactive Classroom with Planar Display Technology

Lassonde School of Engineering at York University in Toronto, Ontario recognizes the role that technology is playing in transforming our society and has adopted a similar mindset towards learning. The school's mission is to foster the development of "renaissance engineers"—entrepreneurial engineers who embrace a social conscience and a sense of global citizenship. In this same spirit, Lassonde School of Engineering is forging a new approach with classroom teaching that embraces the use of interactive display technology for enabling a virtual classroom and a collaborative learning environment.

Lassonde's 'future classroom' concept is based on the vision of Professor Spiros Pagiatakis, Associate Dean Research & Graduate Studies at the Lassonde School of Engineering, along with faculty who understand the influence that technology and collaboration can have on improving higher education.

With support from the Lassonde School and the University, they initially set to act on their interactive classroom concept by engaging integrated collaboration technology consultant ET Group for designing a prototype that embodied their ideas.

Despite initial concerns from Professor Pagiatakis that the technology requirements for fulfilling their vision were too demanding, ET Group was able to meet their project needs by providing a customized solution utilizing the interactive Clarity® Matrix® MultiTouch LCD Video Wall System from Planar.

Clarity Matrix MultiTouch is an ultra-slim profile touch screen LCD video wall that is ideal for collaborative environments like Professor Pagiatakis's classroom. The display has a tiled bezel width of 3.7mm, 500 nits brightness and features six touch points, which allows multiple users to simultaneously interact with the video wall without affecting other users. The video wall also features Planar® ERO™ (Extended Ruggedness and Optics™) technology, which provides an optically-bonded glass front for increased ruggedness and optical performance.
The features of Clarity Matrix MultiTouch have brought several new capabilities to Professor Pagiatakis's class.

"We can have different displays at the same time, link to the internet and edit Word documents or pdf files in real time," Pagiatakis said. "With the touch of the screen, we can also scroll, enlarge or reduce the size of a presentation." Clarity Matrix MultiTouch also allows the class to quickly switch mediums. For example, Professor Pagiatakis or his students can seamlessly move from a blackboard or whiteboard to a PowerPoint or a video presentation.

With built-in video conferencing, students from anywhere in the world can tune in to lectures—enabling a virtual classroom with unparalleled flexibility. The lectures and discussions are also recorded and made available for students to review immediately after class.

"We can have guest speakers and students from around the world and because of the technology it feels like they are right in front of us," Pagiatakis said. "This helps support the idea of the virtual classroom."

Breaking ground with the virtual classroom has both changed the way that concepts are delivered to students and how students participate in their learning, according to Pagiatakis.

"We have to adapt to how the younger generation approaches learning," he said. "Understanding that the impact of technology will be profound for these students and their careers gives purpose to our work."