Brattle Square Studio ready pre-shootTHE GRAND OPENING OF BRATTLE SQUARE STUDIO

In the heart of Harvard Square, on the second floor of an unassuming office building facing the corner of Brattle Street, an “on air” light turns on, illuminating the entryway of DCE’s newest teaching space.


Within this open-concept space consisting of a hydraulic desk surrounded by many large monitors, ultra high-definition cameras, two teleprompters, a massive green screen wall and various portable set pieces, members of DCE’s Innovation Team are hard at work preparing for an upcoming virtual event. Welcome to the Brattle Square Studio.

Dean Nancy Coleman recording in the Brattle Square Studio

Dean Nancy Coleman recording a pre-taped video in the Brattle Square Studio


Designed to run high-profile events for courses that don’t have a regular in-person option, the Brattle Square Studio is purpose-built to provide educational experiences that are both impactful and intimate. This new space will broaden DCE’s capacity to host online interactive sessions from conception to delivery, and is fully equipped to produce webinars, Zoom meetings, debates, lectures, interview panels, and demonstrations.

While the studio at One Brattle Square is new, the interactive learning it will facilitate is well established. In late 2018, after the successful rollout of the HELIX Classroom format, DCE’s Teaching & Learning Team began thinking about new ways to increase engagement in courses without an interactive element - such as republished courses, or cross-listed FAS courses where extension students could not participate in real-time. Our solution to this problem was an idea we called “HELIX Forum” - high-profile, interactive events held in our Story Street Studio. These original HELIX Forum events gave DCE students an opportunity to interact with their instructors face-to-face, and allowed faculty to keep their courses fresh and timely. We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and faculty regarding these popular initial sessions, but there was one problem. Because our Story Street studio was multi-purpose, the technology had to be set up and broken down for each session, which was a heavy lift, literally. And so, in 2019, the Innovation Team began work on designing a new studio with this sort of interactive dynamic in mind.

Now, after countless meetings, months of brainstorming, various revisions to the layout, and a period of rigorous training and acceptance testing, the Brattle Square Studio is finally ready to come online. The suite consists of a sizable teaching space with large high resolution displays, a variety of instructional tools, a state-of-the-art control room, an equipment room, and a reservable studio viewing area to watch the events live.


DCE Innovation Team Christian Franco, Josh Casoni, and Greg Aimo supporting HELIX Forum session

DCE Innovation Team Christian Franco, Josh Casoni, and Greg Aimo supporting a recent HELIX Forum session


The design of this larger space incorporates the lessons we’ve learned from years of operating out of the original multi-use studio at Story Street. Key takeaways such as; maintaining eye contact with students whenever possible, using directional audio to guide an instructor’s attention, and aiming to take the technology completely out of the instructor’s hands (and into the hands of our experienced team), were thoughtfully considered during each phase of the project.

The guiding principle throughout the planning, building and testing of the new studio was to maximize flexibility. For instance, most of the AV hardware - such as camera rigs and life-size monitors, were put on wheels to allow for easy modification to the in-room layout. Studio Manager Greg Aimo, who has spearheaded the AV portion of this project from the initial stages, explains that, “we need to be able to tailor the studio’s configuration to support each event’s theme and objectives.” By implementing multiple teaching stations and a platform agnostic approach to the design, the studio can be modified accordingly for each session.

In addition to the ability to modify the studio layout easily, the studio was also designed with the idea that it could be tailored to the pedagogical goals of an instructor for a given session. Faculty Development Specialist Zahra Ahmed recently held a Social Emotional Learning Workshop (SEL) for the Inclusive Teaching Institute as the inaugural HELIX Forum session in the new studio. Ahmed says, “Through facilitating the Social Emotional Learning Workshop in the Brattle Square Studio, I was exposed to a new way of hyflex facilitation, which made me reimagine what teaching and learning can look like using technology. One of my favorite parts about facilitating this workshop was the green screen backdrop of a calming waterfall along with music for the guided meditation exercise to ground and center participants. Through this technology effect, the learning space was transformed and participants were transported to a new place to engage in mindfulness.”


Zahra Ahmed DCE Faculty Dev leading meditation in the Brattle Square Studio

Zahra Ahmed DCE Faculty Dev leading meditation in the Brattle Square Studio


Karina Lin-Murphy, Manager of Faculty Development, was thoroughly impressed by the opportunities available through teaching in this cutting-edge, virtual space. She says, “The benefits of teaching in HELIX Forum were apparent once I stepped into the studio. The biggest pain point with teaching over Zoom is the physical aspect – I am tethered to my computer and can only step, at most, two feet in any direction. I often felt like I had stripped away the dynamic nature of a class and of teaching. HELIX Forum addressed the challenges of both in-person and web-conference teaching. In the studio space, I was able to move around, engage with my colleagues in conversation genuinely – with body language, arm movement, and all the things that add excitement to a presentation – while still having access to the Zoom features that have significantly enhanced and optimized the way I teach. It felt intuitive. The small touches HELIX Forum offers, such as being able to look into a camera and make “eye contact” with my students, gave me a renewed ability to be dynamic in my teaching and, thus, engage my students.”


Karina Lin-Murphy and Zahra Ahmed DCE Faculty Dev hosting HELIX forum session

Manager of Faculty Development Karina Lin-Murphy and Faculty Development Specialist Zahra Ahmed hosting the first HELIX Forum session at Brattle Square Studio


The Brattle Square Studio is up and running.  The DCE Innovation Team is happy to answer any questions about the new space or the interactive functionality inherent to its design. For more information regarding Brattle Square Studio or the HELIX Forum format, please email us at: