Online teaching feels less virtual, more real at Martin Media Center

Peter Bui Web

Notre Dame encourages students to participate in study abroad programs, and about 75 percent of students take part in these programs. But how does a residential university known for its outstanding teaching bring those strengths to the world of online education and distance learning?

Elliott Visconsi, associate provost and chief academic digital officer, and the Office of Information Technologies (OIT) designed a cost-effective solution for a new distance learning environment using existing technologies.

The teaching studio in the Rex and Alice A. Martin Media Center was chosen as the location for the prototype distance learning space. The main design goals were to:

  • Create a space that feels familiar to instructors who teach face-to-face on a regular basis.

  • Remove technical barriers for the instructors so they can focus on teaching.

  • Control costs by minimizing support requirements, standardizing a core set of peripheral devices in the studio, and using the Zoom conferencing platform.

The physical space is flexible and features existing multimedia resources: a large monitor for Zoom’s Gallery View monitor, another for active content, and a smaller monitor for the instructor’s content. An auto-tracking camera follows the instructor around the room. All production tasks have been simplified so a single teaching assistant can run the entire live experience.

These efforts resulted in the launch of the Notre Dame Global Classroom pilot project that ran for eight weeks over the summer. It was a partnership between the OIT, the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning and the Office of Digital Learning. Faculty feedback is positive.

“This is my third summer teaching an online finance course, so I can compare teaching in the Global Classroom with what I did previously,” says Katherine Spiess, associate professor of finance.

“This was a much better experience for me as the instructor. I could walk around and interact with my students in a much more natural teaching environment than when I manage the Zoom classroom from my office computer,” she says. 

Peter Bui, associate teaching professor of computer science and engineering, agrees that the teaching experience was positive. “Being able to see my students and interact with them was a huge change from what I had previously with my previous online course. This is much more interactive and a better learning experience for my students.”

Mike Chapple, associate teaching professor of information technology, analytics and operations, is equally impressed. “I used the classroom this summer to teach an online course to undergraduates spread around the world participating in internships and study abroad programs. In a recent class, I had students join live from Denmark, Brussels, Hong Kong, South Africa and right here in South Bend.”

The Notre Dame Global Classroom Project demonstrates how the Martin Media Center supports the academy, says Dan Skendzel, executive director of Notre Dame Studios. “It’s gratifying to see the Global Classroom using this studio to further Notre Dame’s educational mission.”  

Visit to learn more about this project.