I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks and it was all the good things it can be when you go on a vacation to Maui, leave the phones and ipads in a drawer and spend your days boogy boarding with sea turtles. Nonetheless, I did manage to squeeze in a couple work days last week.
Innovation Classrooms: This year, we equipped a small classroom with a 60″ monitor and a WePresent. Once a user has set up the WePresent on their device, it works like a dream, allowing you to walk into a room, get on the room wifi, and punch in a 4 digit code via an app. No more cables, no more podiums, no Crestron panels, and the audio quality has been great. The one complaint is that the 60″ monitor may be a bit small, and I find myself zooming documents to make them easier to read.
We’ve found some money in our budget to do a couple more rooms and this time we are trying out some different configurations. We are going to do another small room with a WePresent and two 60” monitors on perpendicular walls, one of them mounted on a tilt mount and the other on a swing mount. The rooms are squarish in shape and get used for a variety of teaching purposes and we think that it will be useful to have some flexibility with a monitor on the swing mount. The WePresent won’t duplicate onto 2 monitors without an add-on, but we think there is utility in having the monitors have different purposes if they are in use. The WePresent monitor setup lends itself to student use, and instructor can simply hook up to the other one.
We are also going to do a larger, bowling alley room with a 70” monitor on a tilt mount and a WePresent. We struggled with this type of room configuration—we are introducing the monitors/WePresent set up as a way of diverging from a traditional student-rows-facing-front-monitor-for-powerpoint-presentation setup. But bowling alley rooms don’t let you do this as easily as the small, square rooms. We are going to revisit this setup and see where a second monitor should be placed, if at all.
The $ details: We are challenging ourselves to think about equipment that we can feasibly replicate across dozens of rooms. The easiest solution is to purchase and install with one vendor. But we are learning that there is considerable money to be saved if we do our own install and if we purchase the mounts through an online supplier like Monoprice. Basically, the mount savings alone across 10 rooms equal the ability to do an additional room, and the install savings are recovered across 5.
We also learned that the typical podium, projector, screen setup costs in the range of 10-12,000$. Our rooms are coming in at less than half of that and we think that they will also be easier for instructors and students to use, and be better suited to a BYOD environment. I think of our approach as an Ikea approach to classroom technology—we are trying to introduce flexibility and simplicity within an environment where refreshing the equipment won’t be a huge burden on the institution.
Video: We’ve been watching the progress with BCnet and MediaCore closely since we have a huge need for some video management given all the activity we do with video. The big ‘if’ is whether our little institution will be able to manage a shared service license with MediaCore, so we are going ahead with plans to get open source Kaltura loaded and tested on a server here.
Coincidently, one of our programmers mocked up a nice little app that will allow us to have students and instructors record video directly into Blackboard (via our Flash media server). This will take a load off of our Blackboard server, and will also be a way of allowing students to record 20 minute-1 hour role plays and simulation exercises directly onto the Flash media server. It’s a little project that provides a huge impact in solving a number of nagging process issues we’ve had around video.