Middle Tennessee State University’s Information Technology Division earned a top award at a higher education conference for its effort to upgrade campus classrooms and has been spotlighted by other vendors for their implementation of technology improvements.
James Copeland, MTSU’s director of classroom technology, and his team recently received the Classroom Installation Gold Award from the Higher Ed AV Conference for their classroom upgrade project.
Copeland and his team also recently completed their third case study testimonial by audiovisual equipment vendor Epiphan on MTSU’s innovations in classroom technology upgrades, with publication of the study pending. Extron and Sennheiser are two other vendors who have interviewed Copeland and his team for their work in campus classrooms.
“James and his team are customer-focused and results-driven,” said Michael Barton, ITD’s assistant vice president for client services. “Their goal is to improve the student/faculty experience by delivering intuitive, cutting-edge audio/video technology with advanced auto-troubleshooting in every classroom AV system. With the delivery of these systems, James and his team have dramatically improved their ability to support and maintain the 400-plus classrooms on campus.
“This work is among the best and most visible ways the Information Technology Division contributes to student success at MTSU.”
Ceiling mics enhance hybrid classrooms
MTSU was recognized at the AV conference for its installation of over 250 Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 ceiling microphones across campus to streamline their hybrid classroom technology stack while maximizing audio quality for students and faculty.
These ceiling microphones can pick up the audio from the professor as well as all of the students in the room.
Copeland and colleagues Aaron Dill and Dustin Cunningham worked on the project with technical support from Howard Technologies, M3, OneDiversified and TriStar Digital Connections.
All classes are now recorded and streamed for remote and hybrid participants via Zoom and shared via the Panopto video management system, making audio quality for all students, interoperability, and ease of use for faculty, key considerations for the AV and IT staff at the university.
After a few years of remote and hybrid classes in the wake of the pandemic, leveraging a camera and lanyard-style lavalier microphone for all classrooms, Copeland said he realized they needed a better solution.
“We quickly felt the pain of using battery-powered mics. There were issues with having the batteries regularly charged, so professors would come in and they couldn’t record their lecture because the mic was drained,” Copeland said. “If a class was over Zoom, the students couldn’t hear anything, so it was like the class wasn’t even happening.”
Beyond the challenge of remembering to charge the mic for the next educator, students wanted a better solution for collaboration: “Students in class wanted to communicate with their remote classmates, but did not want to physically pass a mic, and potentially germs. Logistically it was a natural transition to move to a ceiling microphone,” Copeland said.
Self-help solution for classroom AV
Vendor Extron also spotlighted MTSU ITD for the installation of self-help user interfaces in classrooms to assist users with troubleshooting technical problems with audiovisual equipment without overloading the ITD Help Desk or technicians with requests.
Copeland explained to the company that challenges of providing IT support for 20,000-student, 550-acre campus with 55 buildings housing over 420 AV-equipped classrooms, conference rooms and event spaces, plus more than 1,000 university-owned PCs.
Copeland said since many of their help desk calls come from users who need assistance with basic AV system operation or minor troubleshooting, the technical support staff needed a solution that would reduce the number of calls by enabling users to resolve problems themselves.
Copeland, Cunningham and Dill took on this project along with ITD colleagues Jonathan Moore and Dustin Smith.
“Previously instructors would often call us out to the classrooms for issues as simple as a blank screen caused by a PC or document camera that wasn’t turned on,” Copeland said. “Now, the touch panel prompts them with ‘Please Power-on the PC’, and when the system then detects an active signal, the touchscreen confirms with ‘PC Signal Detected’. Something this simple has reduced such time-consuming service calls to zero.”
MTSU’s Information Technology Division is led by Yvette Clark, chief information officer and vice president for information technology.
— Jimmy Hart (Jimmy.Hart@mtsu.edu)