On the first day of my Intermediate Ancient Greek class, I arrived at the classroom a half hour early with some friends because the new Academic Building is a maze, and we overestimated the time it would take to find the classroom. Thankfully, the tech guy working in the room let us in.
Prior to this first class, our teacher had sent us several emails, some of which were addressed ‘to the students in Illinois’. We speculated the reason for this and were granted an answer as soon as we walked into the classroom.
There were two screens in the front of the class, which isn’t that unusual. The small touchscreen control panel to the side of them could be mistaken for some kind of replacement for a podium. However, the three large cameras in the room were a bit off-putting and have limited use in a course on Ancient Greek. Two were stationed in the front of the room, directly between the two screens, moving whenever they sensed someone speaking to focus on the source of noise. This was made creepier by the way you can see the output in a window on one of the screens. Say more than a sentence and one of the cameras would swivel its blank stare onto you, providing all with a closeup of your face. Fortunately, the third camera, perched high against the wall, is the only one in use for most of the class and focuses on the instructor.
See, this year Intermediate Ancient Greek is being taught both at Rutgers and the University of Illinois, by the same teacher, at the same time. The four Ancient Greek students in Illinois will be video conferencing into the Rutgers class on Mondays and Wednesdays at 3. This is exciting not only because of the technological aspect of the class, but also because as the professor, Emily Allen Hornblower, paused to take note of before we started, “9 Rutgers students and 4 students in Illinois, that’s 13 students. This is the biggest Ancient Greek class I’ve ever taught.”
She’s been teaching Ancient Greek for seven years.
This isn’t the only cross school class offered through the Rutgers classics department. This semester those interested could also learn Sanskrit by conferencing into the class at Penn State. It’s part of being in the Big Ten. Hopefully over the next few years it will help students majoring in areas that have small departments, like Classics, have more class options so they can focus on areas of interest.
But, for the present, we’re working out the glitches in Intermediate Ancient Greek. With all the new tech, we keep having problems like the call dropping mid class period or the sound dropping out. Hopefully these issues will be fixed by the end of the semester. In the meantime, I still have a Greek quiz on Monday that I should review for.