Interactive Digital Environments Lab Benefits Faculty, Students

August 14, 2020

Student in masks sit in front of screens in the Interactive Digital Environments Lab.

IT students will be on hand in the Interactive Digital Environments Lab to assist users and monitor quality.

An innovative new lab now open in Lafferre Hall will benefit both faculty and students at Mizzou Engineering. The Interactive Digital Environments Lab will allow instructors to record high-quality lectures and demonstrations. For Information Technology students, the lab provides the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

A partnership between the college and the IT Program, the lab will address immediate needs as some classes will remain online to meet social distancing requirements. It will also allow the college to continue to explore best practices for virtual learning environments as new technologies become available, said IT Director of Undergraduate Studies Gillian Maurer, who heads up the lab.

“We wanted a way to give faculty the ability to develop and deliver higher-quality content than what they might be able to produce from their desktop or laptop computers,” Maurer said. “At the same time, we want to be leaders when it comes to innovative teaching methods. Our students are digital natives who have high standards when it comes to technology. The IDE Lab will help us meet those expectations and go beyond.”

Lab Provides Green Screen Setting

The Interactive Digital Environments, or IDE, Lab includes a green screen setting with studio lighting and cameras where users instructors can display images, picture-in-picture videos, charts and other course materials on camera. Faculty will have the option of standing in front of displayed materials or off screen. They can also view what students will see on a monitor in front of them.

Brian Maurer demonstrates green screen capabilities in the Interactive Digital Environments Lab.

Gillian Maurer, director of undergraduate studies for the IT Program, demonstrates green screen capabilities in the Interactive Digital Environments Lab.

For IT students, the lab will be a space they can practice what they learn in class. Students will guide users through the process, facilitate recordings and troubleshoot as needed.

“In addition to gaining practical IT and production skills, students working in the lab will learn how to manage projects, communicate with clients and solve problems,” Maurer said.

Mizzou classes resume August 24.  The IDE Lab is primarily for faculty who want to pre-record online presentations, demonstrations or lectures, although special live events may be scheduled. It’s not intended to be used as a regular class meeting space.

Faculty will be able to schedule the lab in 1.5 hour shifts from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Depending on demand, Maurer said lab hours may extend to 8 p.m.

Future Uses 

The IDE Lab  will double as a facility to test out new teaching technologies.

Specifically, Maurer hopes to incorporate digitally designed environments and virtual reality elements, where students wearing VR headsets remotely could “see” instructors in virtual settings.

In the future, he also plans to experiment with motion tracking sensors, visual effects technology and game environment design software called Unreal Engine. That technology would allow faculty to walk students through 3D demonstrations and explore environments they otherwise would not have access to.

“Imagine teaching neural engineering and being able to walk through the circuitry of the brain,” Maurer said. “Or, demonstrating bridge construction by showing it in a lifelike gaming environment. I’m excited to help Mizzou Engineering start to deploy these emerging teaching and learning technologies.”