A Look Into Classrooms of the Future

By Isabella Futchi

Jambar Contributor

Attending class via cell phones. Having a video log of all lectures. Youngstown State University is expanding its educational technology to provide such opportunities for students.

YSU is working with Cisco Webex, a California-based technology company that specializes in online education systems, to expand and improve the learning process for students. 

Cisco Webex representatives met with about 30 YSU faculty and staff members Oct. 17 for a lecture on the “Classroom of the Future.” 

Dirk Holsopple, Cisco Webex collaboration specialist, said YSU began implementing advanced educational technology on a small scale in 2017. Future possibilities for students include the ability to rewatch recorded lectures, review material and notes and never have to step foot in the traditional pen-and-paper classroom, should they so choose. 

“The students are already comfortable with a phone in their hand, so why not bring the tools that they are already comfortable with into learning. It’s the tools I wish I had when I was in college,” Holsopple said. 

The Webex system allows education to be provided regardless of where the students or faculty are located and can be accessed by any smartphone, tablet or laptop, Holsopple said. 

Services Webex offers that benefit faculty as well as students are online class meetings, small group collaboration to individual teaching, late-hour tutoring sessions and the ability for faculty to have full control of online classes during lectures, just like a traditional classroom. 

Jim Yukech, chief information officer at YSU, said he believes this could be a great tool for staff and students if they are unable to meet in a traditional classroom.

“Think of it as classrooms without walls. If you’re just doing PowerPoints, this is not the technology for you,” he said. “The sweet spot for this technology is if the students aren’t here or are online, but the professor is here or vice versa, all are possibilities.”

Lance Ford, educational technology advocate with Cisco Webex and the featured speaker for the lecture, said students should have the availability to access content from anywhere at any time to better succeed in and understand the class. 

“The ability to watch content after class was the genesis idea,” Ford said. “Students are making applications around the knowledge, discussing around the knowledge, so it’s not just me pontificating for 60 minutes.” 

Sharyn Zembower, coordinator of technology and training at YSU, agreed that students and faculty can benefit greatly from enriching their education through Cisco Webex collaboration technology.

“It’s really about connecting students with subject matter experts from anywhere in the world. It reduces cost, free availability of schedule for students and faculty and expands online class offerings,” Zembower said.

Holsopple said YSU was one of the first to adopt new classroom technology.

YSU has 12 rooms with this technology in Moser Hall. Yukech said faculty and students from all disciplines are able to contact him about the rooms’ availability. 

Stephanie Volpini-Hann, program coordinator for the Center for Human Services Development at YSU, uses Cisco Webex for a program called “Unlocking the Hidden Game.” 

As part of a two-year pilot program, about 25 YSU students mentor 50 students between sixth and 11th grade who are in the care of child services in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The program utilizes Cisco Webex through a grant from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to help at-risk kids. She said it uses the technology to facilitate meetings between mentors and mentees who are then exposed to new technology.

“The mission of ‘Unlocking the Hidden Game’ is to provide education to 50 at-risk youth to learn and discover the hidden rules of how to be successful in school and life,” Volpini-Hann said. 

Deborah Benyo, a YSU biology professor, implements this collaborative technology in the nursing classes she teaches for St. Elizabeth’s anesthetists program. 

She uses Cisco Webex to allow students to access lecture material and notes. She said it provides a pathway for students to attend lectures off site if they’re unable to attend class due to their clinicals or volunteer work. 

“I was the last person to think that we would ever integrate technology into the classroom,” Benyo said.

Currently, there are also two online classes that YSU teaches through using Cisco Webex at Lakeland Community College and Lorain County Community College for off-campus students.

The Cisco Webex technology was purchased by a $1.1 million donation from Dr. Chander and his wife Karen Kohli dedicated to their son Aneal Mohan Kohli.