Telepresence FAQ

How is this different than other forms of video conferencing, such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and so on?

The Connected Classroom is a completely different experience from personal video conferencing.  Even when compared to commercial grade, professional video conferencing systems, our system is unique, in that it creates and maintains the illusion that you’re really in the class together.  The goal is to forget that you’re video conferencing, and that’s exactly what happens.  That’s why so much careful attention was paid to camera angles and zoom levels to get everything as life-sized and accurate as possible.  Our system is also in full 1080p HD, which most other systems don’t support.  The quality is perfect during the entire session, with no blips or variable performance levels.

How reliable is this system? What happens if there's a failure in the room - where will I be moved to?

Unlike in a regular classroom, if there’s a major equipment failure in a Telepresence room, there is no other room equipped to handle the load.

We are very confident in the equipment and, as standard procedure, perform a full test prior to an event. That being said, there are some things that are outside of our control.  For example, the system requires power, an Internet connection, and a special direct link to the remotely connected campus.  Outages in those areas are generally outside of Wharton’s control, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t plan for them.

While a normal class or conference could probably work around a  network outage, if our special link to the remotely connected campus goes down because Penn’s Internet provider is having an outage, then you will be left with limited options on how to proceed.  We recommend discussing with the Telepresence Team and your IT Support Team alternatives that could be rapidly employed in the event of a problem with the Telepresence equipment or the special Internet link connecting the two campuses.  If the power were to go out entirely at either facility, then the event could definitely not proceed.

How long does it take to set up a call, switch call directions, and put a classroom back into normal use mode?

We recommend a minimum of 30 minutes for setup time to allow time for adjustments to visual effects, such as lighting or content sharing. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare the capable classrooms for Telepresence usage. This is due primarily to the need to move the lectern out of the way.  Likewise, it takes about 10 minutes to put the room back into normal mode, most of which is due to the physical moving of the lectern back into its standard position. This means if you’re planning on having a speaker in the middle of an existing event, the transition back into “normal” mode will not be seamless or immediate – you will need to either have a break, or fill that time with something.

What options can a presenter control from the touch panel during his or her session?

The presenter can control audio mutes, which camera angle to view the remote students with, what he or she sees on the confidence monitor, and where his or her content appears.  For more information on specific options, please see the Presenters Need to Know page or contact the Telepresence Team for a consultation.

Can I use this system to bring in external participants at other non-Wharton locations?

The current technology includes the ability to bring a single third party participant into an already existing telepresence event. There are some restrictions surrounding this capability, such as the third party will need to have access to the proper equipment to be able to dial into the telepresence session. To identify whether telepresence is capable of supporting your third party participant needs, please contact the Telepresence Team for a consultation.

Is it possible to set up a telepresence call with all three Wharton sites?

No. The system is designed to make a two way call, with one site in “teach” mode and the other in “learn” mode. There is not currently a way to add a third site, while still maintaining the feel of the Telepresence technology.

Can I use this system to facilitate a panel discussion where the panel members are split between two Telepresence rooms?

Yes, but not without slightly disrupting the standard panel format.  The panel members who are sitting in the room that’s in “learn” mode, receiving the call from the main presentation room, would not be able to sit up front, as they would block parts of the screen, cast shadows, and be blinded by multiple projectors shining into their eyes.  It could be done, but they would have to sit as members of the audience on either side, which is not exactly panel format.  For the best panel experience, up to 4 people should sit at the front of the same room in “teach” mode.

Was your question not addressed here? Would you like to see a demonstration?

Contact the Telepresence Team at teleclass@wharton.upenn.edu