The Classics Departments of Miami University and Ohio University are engaged in a new cooperative venture that puts Miami and OU students virtually in the same classroom. OU Classics Professor James Andrews is teaching a 300 level course on Greek poetry at OU with his own five students of advanced Greek, together with three Miami students, who participate in the class via teleconferencing technology. The three Miami students, Tyler Gau, Stephanie Krause, and Joe Ostrander, join the class from Room 220 Laws Hall, where equipment and software there make it possible for them to see and hear the other students in the class, and to be seen and heard by them. The technology also makes it possible for the instructor to display content to all the students at once, whether it is a virtual blackboard that he writes on, texts in various formats, video, or web content. Best of all the arrangement reproduces the feeling of seminar in which students across the state can interact with each other as though they were in the same room.
The arrangement was prompted in part by the interest in making under-enrolled courses more viable at each institution. Small classes have become targets of economizing in challenging financial times for both universities. In the last several years, such classes have had to be cancelled or taught as an overload course. This new arrangement is a better solution for economizing, cutting in half the number of under-enrolled or overload courses at each institution. Although Classics Professor Stephen Nimis is the official instructor of record for the Miami students, his role this semester has been minimal and purely logisitical. Next semester, Nimis will teach a 400 level Latin course that will include advanced Latin students from both Miami and OU, while another advanced Greek course will be offered by OU Professor William Owens.
Beyond the issue of resources, the arrangement has had pedagogical consequences that are equally significant. These students are being introduced to the advantages and problems of a technology that is destined to play a greater role in future educational and business contexts. Students at both institutions will also now have a broader cohort of fellow classicists who share their enthusiasm for the subjects they study, as well as access to a broader range of instructors. In fact, this last weekend Nimis and the three Miami students travelled to Athens, Ohio, for the Ohio Classical Conference that was hosted by OU. The students from the class were able to meet each other, watched a performance of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, and participated in a conference panel on their experiences in the class. One of the OU students, Rachel Thomas, had presented a paper last year at Miami's annual Undergraduate Classics Conference, and the OU students are already planning to come in larger numbers for this spring's conference.
In preparation for the course this fall, faculty and staff met several times over the summer to test out various hardware and software options. Technical support from Miami's Tim Schroeder and OU's Jessica Makosky was essential for the success of the experiment.