Creative thinking by staff in the Institute for Teaching and Learning’s audio visual technology services department is increasing the number of classrooms with technology capabilities at UConn’s regional campuses and will eventually benefit the Storrs campus as well.
AV Technology Services staff, led by Lance Nye, last fall created a compact wall-mounted instructional technology system, enhancing a basic system that was envisioned three years ago to bring audio and visual services to classrooms.
The enhancement enables the system to also run computer programs, DVDs, and CD-Roms.
The new system is relatively inexpensive, costing about $10,000 per “tech ready” room compared to more than $35,000 for a full-blown high-tech classroom.
As a result, nearly two dozen classrooms have been equipped as tech-ready, primarily at the regional campuses, with a promise of more to come.
“I think they’ve done a really remarkable job, bringing that much technology together in a small package at a really reasonable cost,” says University Registrar Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith, whose staff are charged, among other things, with assigning classrooms each semester.
They say finding enough high-tech classrooms to satisfy all the requests is next to impossible.
“It’s very difficult,” says Laurie Best, assistant registrar for scheduling.
“And as more younger faculty members join the University, the demand for technology is increasing. Freshman English, for example, never wanted it before but they do now, even with a class of only 20.” The new system will be particularly helpful in small classrooms, she adds.
Nye and his group built a wall-mounted console, about three-feet square, that is “a self-contained, high-tech classroom,” says Dan Mercier, assistant director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning.
To begin with, the box provided power for a projector, and had an amplifier and speakers and connections allowing a DVD or VCR to be plugged in for video.
Now, the Technology Services staff have added a computer connection, two USB ports, and a wireless receiver. The system can’t run sophisticated computer programs, but professors can bring their laptops to the classroom already loaded with software, plug them in, and go.
| Ofer Harel, an assistant professor of statistics, teaches a class in a “tech ready” classroom in the CLAS Building. The panel on the front wall brings a variety of technologies into the room.
|Photo by Dan Mercier
“It makes using technology more intuitive,” says Susan Lyons, an English professor and director of academic services at the Avery Point campus, which will soon have eight tech-ready classrooms where once there were none.
“All you have to do is plug in your flash drive and keyboard. It works well, and there’s not as much time spent setting up and breaking down.”
Besides Avery Point, Mercier says there will be six tech-ready classrooms at the Waterbury Campus, five in the undergraduate buildings at the Greater Hartford Campus and several at the adjacent School of Social Work, and two at the Torrington Campus.
The Stamford Campus, which has some high-tech rooms already, will have the system installed in some classrooms later, as will Storrs, where so far the system has been installed in one classroom, a statistics classroom in the CLAS Building.
“This is really clever and a very good value,” says Harry Frank, a chemistry professor and an associate dean in CLAS.
“It was born out of a group of faculty discussing what we needed to do our jobs, and Lance and Keith Barker (director of the Institute for Teaching and Learning) found a way to do it.”
Faculty, say Lyons and Frank, are enjoying the new-found access to technology.
“Now, I can connect to the Internet, download short movies that show chemical reactions, and project them onto the screen in the lab before the students conduct their experiments,” says Joanne Elmoznino, a chemistry instructor at Avery Point.
“I can also illustrate safe practice in a non-hazardous way by showing potentially dangerous activities through the built-in computer and Internet connection.”