Introducing LIR’s New Hybrid System

Not long after this Spring semester started, FCLIR started experimenting with the OWL system, a high-functioning, multi-camera hybrid system, as an alternative to the Logitech hybrid system installed at the Annex. We have tested the Owl in all four hybrid seminars for a few weeks and we want to share with you its successes, as well as what distinguishes a hybrid meeting from any other.

Based on the moderators’ feedback, here are a few examples of the OWL’s success:

  • It permits folks on Zoom to see who is speaking, which expands access to things such as lip reading, voice recognition, and effective communication.
  • The setup and cleanup is easier. There are fewer wires to connect, reducing technological barriers between the system and the user.
  • The audio is clear and concise. The microphone detects voices no matter the location of the speaker.
  • It promotes flexibility. We can now think about hosting hybrid seminars and events such as the upcoming Fall Preview from other locations outside of the FCI Annex.

Of course, with change comes accommodation, and so there are some things to consider when joining or hosting a hybrid meeting.

There will always be barriers in hybrid meetings since they’re a combination of both in-person and virtual meetings. One offers connection while the other increases accessibility. Hybrid is a compromise between these objectives. At the Annex, the LIR Office Manager and the facility’s Operations Assistant provide technological support (speakers, laptop, visuals, and microphones) to create a successful learning environment for the in-person participants, and hopefully this helps the members on Zoom to have a comfortable meeting as well.

We have received feedback from participants on Zoom describing a sound coming specifically from the hybrid setup, which we have been able to reproduce in our own testing. We found that this sound was actually a low “echo”, something that can also be noticeable in an auditorium where someone is talking into a microphone. At the Annex, the OWL sits in the middle of a large room that gives off very low echo, which can be distracting for some. This is worth noting when deciding if this type of meeting is right for you.

Unfortunately, there will never be a “perfect” hybrid setup. There are pros and cons to both environments, but with all things considered, the FCLIR leadership and seminar moderators have made great progress in navigating these two options in the past year. As we move forward into the Fall 2024 semester, we ask you to consider what learning environment works best for you. The OWL can provide some of the experiences of both a fully remote and a fully in-person meeting, but it is important to remember it cannot provide the full experience of both. We do not have a perfect hybrid seminar setup, but we do believe that the OWL option has brought us closer than before.

Kristin Langevin