InSpace today announced the launch of a groundbreaking virtual learning platform that transforms education through smart design.
Imagine having one-on-one conversations AND group discussions, breakout rooms AND presentations all in one beautiful virtual space? Better yet, picture an online environment where students and teachers can interact and collaborate seamlessly just as they do in real classrooms and labs? That’s InSpace. It’s a remarkably elegant approach to virtual education and an exciting example of disruptive technology at work. Champlain will be the first college to adopt the platform for classes this fall through a pilot program. In November, InSpace plans to offer the software to other colleges and universities as they prepare for the spring semester.
InSpace is designed to mirror the fluid, personal, and interactive nature of a real classroom. It allows participants to break free of “Brady Bunch” boxes to create a fun, natural, and engaging environment that fosters interaction and collaboration. Each person is represented in a video circle that can freely move around the space. When people are next to each other, they can hear and engage in conversation, and as they move away, the audio fades, allowing them to find new conversations. As participants zoom out, they can see the entire space, which provides visual social cues. Teachers can speak to everyone when needed, move between individual students and groups for more private discussion, and place groups of students in audio-isolated rooms for collaboration while still belonging to one virtual space.
“InSpace mimics the feel of the classroom,” says Dr. Kylie King, Assistant Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship and Director of Champlain’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It enables me to easily join student conversations and make myself available to answer questions.”
“I prefer it over Teams and Zoom,” says Dr. Nicholas Gotelli, Professor of Biology at the University of Vermont. “For small-group instruction and videoconferencing, InSpace is an outstanding platform.”
Created by educators for educators, the platform was conceived by Champlain College Data Science and Machine Learning professor, Dr. Narine Hall, who felt frustrated with the limitations current virtual meeting platforms placed on personal interaction when colleges moved from in-person classrooms to online instruction this past March.
“We want our students to experience a feeling of belonging to a school, to a classroom, and to a group, but still have the ability to connect personally in one-on-one conversations,” said Dr. Hall. “Our main purpose is to have education work better in a virtual setting. Teachers need to be able to recognize individual strengths, motivate students to build on them, and help remove roadblocks that are unique to each student.”
Our main purpose is to have education work better in a virtual setting.Dr. Narine Hall, Assistant Professor of Data Science at Champlain College and Founder and CEO of InSpace
“In the spring, when I was trying to do teamwork in the classroom, it was nearly impossible,” says Dr. Hall. “So I decided to sit down and code a solution myself. After two days of nearly nonstop coding, my friend, Haykanush Lputyan, a lifelong coding partner and software engineer, reached out and said, ‘Hey, what’s going on?'” Dr. Hall told her about her virtual learning platform idea and said she wanted to turn it around by September.
Lputyan, whose child had been taking Zoom classes that spring, wasn’t a fan of existing platforms either, so the two started coding together around the clock. “Within a week, we had a whole team of 10 developers around the globe working with us,” says Dr. Hall. “We were moving really fast and working in an unnatural software development cycle because we were all really inspired and needed a solution right away.”
Dr. Hall credits Champlain for its support and encouragement of faculty entrepreneurship. Champlain professors bring years of industry experience to the classroom, along with deep connections in their fields. Champlain’s professionally focused approach keeps classes not only relevant but up to the minute and gives professors the room to innovate and pursue opportunities like the one Dr. Hall seized.
“InSpace shows what is possible when institutions of higher learning approach the pandemic as an opportunity to pivot to innovative solutions,” says Champlain President Dr. Benjamin Ola. Akande. “By building on what makes Champlain special — our entrepreneurial mindset, personal connections, and innovative technology — InSpace is reinventing virtual learning at Champlain and beyond.”
During the Fall 2020 beta stage, InSpace is engaging with a select cohort of higher education institutions who wish to deploy, test, and lead in virtual education for better student, faculty, and parent satisfaction and educational outcomes.
Dr. Hall says InSpace is a suite of patent-pending tools and user experiences that are simple, secure, and scalable. Outside of the classroom, InSpace can be used in plenty of other exciting ways too, like in study groups, team projects, labs, tutoring spaces, student clubs, office hours, and more.