by Sean A. Riley, PhD, Academic Dean
To re-open campus this fall, Stony Brook had to get creative. We knew that flexibility was going to be key in meeting the needs of our families around the world. So, we designed a schedule and a pedagogical approach that would allow students to choose between in-person and remote learning on a daily basis. To start the year, about 75% of our 432 students decided to attend campus, physically distanced, wearing masks, while the remaining 25% began attending via Zoom. We adjusted our schedule so that students in Asia could attend live sessions, and teachers are recording all classes, so that students who need to can attend class asynchronously. The school purchased teachers iPad and styluses so they can now write on a digital whiteboard, which remote students can see more easily and which can be saved for future reference by all students.
Additionally, to promote a more immersive experience for our remote learners and to free teachers to move around the room instead of staying in front of their webcams, the school purchased Meeting Owls, 360 degree camera/speaker/microphones, for each classroom. These 360 degree cameras sit in the center of the room where they can see and hear everyone. When connected to Zoom, the camera displays to the remote students a complete panoramic view of the classroom, as well as up to three panels focusing on those who are speaking. The impact of this technology on remote student learning is remarkable. Those who are taking class from afar feel more integrated into the physical classroom, more connected with their peers, and more in sync with the lesson.
All of these adjustments and innovations have made it possible for us to offer as close to the same learning experience as possible for both our in-person and our remote students, so students who have to leave campus or re-join campus throughout the year will have a seamless transition. While class has looked different this year, students are receiving the same character-focused, intellectually stimulating Christian education they did pre-pandemic. As we move throughout the year, Stony Brook will remain adaptive to changing realities to ensure the best possible learning experience for students.
“I am deeply grateful for SBS’ ability to offer flexible, hybrid schedules,” said Agnes McConlogue Ferro, P ‘23, “which allows both the student and the parents to feel safe and supported. During a season where feelings of isolation, stress, and uncertainty can prevail, it is a source of great comfort to know that SBS is prepared to work with families to ensure that our children can still maintain focus on academics, and character-building, and their future.”