I’m really sorry if I’m breaking rules/norms here, or am missing a relevant existing request, issue, or technical hurdle, please inform me if I am. I literally made an account to suggest this, partly because I at least think it’s a good idea, mostly to check if anyone else is doing it and what I would need to learn to do it myself.
Anyway, with the current situation, many college professors and similar are hosting classes online, and an important administration tool for them is breakout rooms, being able to send subsets of students into private rooms for discussion. I don’t know the current state of that feature, or honestly much about jitsi, but this applies regardless. From speaking to several professors, an annoying limitation of the zoom implementation of breakout rooms is that one, they take quite a while to switch people in, and two, the professor can only be in one at a time. This means that, unlike in a physical classroom, the professor cannot circulate quite as easily between small groups looking for people having trouble, and when they do find someone having trouble, they cannot speak louder and address the answer to the whole class, since they are only in that room and spending 30 seconds recalling the class from breakout rooms for 5 seconds of discussion is impractical. In practice, this means that they often have to answer the same question many times over, for example clarifying the wording of an exercise, and it means that students cannot benefit from hearing each other’s questions as much.
I propose the following as a solution/new feature: A “classroom mode” allowing either the host or all participants to very quickly create and leave breakout rooms, without a connection delay. I don’t have a background in this, but could this be accomplished by sending all audio streams to all participants and sending a signal to mute those they should not hear? That would hopefully allow near-instant entry and exit from a room. As a UI for this, I would suggest one fo two options, Either a standard breakout rooms feature with a button added to broadcast to or send a notification to all rooms in order to, for example, clarify instructions. Or, more complexly, a screen based on a physical “room metaphor”, displaying the icons of participants on a white background; icons could be dragged and dropped around to arrange them, and participants would only hear sound from icons within a certain geometric distance (displayed as a semitransparent circle around each icon). Said distance could be set with a slider in the bottom; far for a lecture with the whole class listening at once, close for many separate groups.
This would have the following advantages over a simpler implementation of breakout rooms: the lecturer could, as they prepare to leave one group, easily listen in to multiple others to figure out where to go, rather than blindly rotating through groups in order (perhaps giving each group different left/right audio streams to aid distinction?). The lecturer could, by moving their icon, virtually circulate faster and easier than joining many groups in turn on semi-separate calls. By moving the bottom slider, it would be possible to do the digital equivalent of getting the class’s attention, noting some minor point, and returning them to working; this is inconvenient to the point of unusability in current apps. These seem minor, but talking to several professors, they would help significantly with managing the transition to remote learning, Additionally, a physical room metaphor would be both fairly simple to grasp and fairly powerful, allowing novel arrangements not thought of here.
What technical hurdles would there be to doing this? Other hurdles? I am a fairly inexperienced programmer (literally a college freshman), but learn fast and would be willing to try to implement this. What would I need to modify/learn to do so? The jitsi meet API? The server code? The client code? Browser extensions?
Thanks for your time and patience.