Sharper video, better sound: Upgraded classroom tech arrives in Wellman

Four classrooms in Wellman Hall are receiving major upgrades to their instructional technology this summer, ranging from touch-screen controls for the instructor to sharp video displays.

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The work is phase two of a multi-year plan to improve the instructional equipment in the 129 general-assignment classrooms maintained by Information and Educational Technology. IET will upgrade 10 more locations later in 2014-15, followed by additional classrooms in subsequent phases.

The upgrades in Wellman occur alongside the start of IET's video initiative, a separate but related major project to help UC Davis faculty and students more easily use video for teaching and learning (see more about that initiative, below).

The improvements

ATS crews are installing the equipment in 1, 6, 7 and 26 Wellman this summer, and installed most of the upgrades a year ago in 194 Peter A. Rock Hall. In addition to the high-definition video processing and displays, the changes in the classrooms include:

 

 

 

 

  • An ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-approved adjustable instructor's desk, with touch-screen controls, an installed document camera (no more need to plug in cables or move carts) and laptop connections (VGA/DVI-D/AC power) in a desk cubby (no more cables strewn on the floor between the laptop and media cabinet)
  • Better-sounding audio, with a digital signal processor plus high-quality, full-range speaker systems
  • Wireless microphones (if not already installed)
  • Lecture-capture recording
  • Blu-Ray playback

The core of the classroom upgrade is the updated, all-digital media cabinet that can still integrate videotapes and other analog media.

"The upgrades are built in a way that takes care of the past and the future," said Joe Kelley, who manages Audio-Visual Engineering (AV) for IET-Academic Technology Services (ATS) and wrote the upgrade plan.

"The key is, this is standard," he said. "The setup and equipment is the same, room to room. Instructors who know how to use the equipment in one room will find it works the same way in every other room."

The video initiative

The video initiative includes the new lecture-capture equipment and video improvements installed in Wellman, plus these additional tools available to all faculty starting this fall, regardless of which classroom they use:

  • TechSmith (Camtasia) Relay video tools, to record and edit videos
  • Expanded eLearning studios in the basement of Hutchison Hall, a fully equipped location where faculty can "record and create rich content for their students"
  • Kaltura, a YouTube-like platform that easily uploads, processes and stores the videos

ATS also installed the new lecture-capture system this summer in 123 Sciences Lecture Hall and 194 Rock.

The video initiative will operate in a pilot phase for the 2014-15 academic year, and feedback from the first faculty users will influence the project as it moves forward.

The initiative was on the agenda at the Summer Institute for Teaching and Technology Sept. 12; ATS plans much more outreach about the initiative, especially to faculty.

Training and timing

The AV group is offering to train instructors how to use the new classroom equipment in person, by appointment. "This allows us to do the training on site in the room the instructor will be using, and demonstrate with their devices--laptop, tablet, other--as applicable," said Derald Reedy, a principal TV technician for ATS.

For fast assistance when using the equipment, faculty may call the cl assroom hotline, 530-752-3333. ATS also plans to post training videos.

Removing the old equipment, and installing the new, takes about one week per classroom. ATS is developing alternative methods that would work around weekday instructional schedules.

The classroom tech equipment in the campus's GA classrooms is mostly 9 to 13 years old, Kelley said. The current equipment still works, and the AV crew maintains it as diligently as ever, but technology continues to evolve, he said. "It's definitely time to do this upgrade."