The A/V equipment in many of our classrooms was due for replacement. As we began to plan the upgrade, we decided the rooms would benefit from getting a full re-thinking from floor to ceiling.
The first step was getting community feedback. We reached out to teaching faculty and students, and received several suggestions for making the rooms a better teaching and learning space.
We decided to use this feedback to upgrade a single room, Cumming 202, refine it, then replicate what works to other classrooms. We are currently in the process of upgrading Cummings 105 followed by Cummings 118 and Cummings 200 during winter break.
Here are the changes we’ve made to Cummings 202:
Old hanging fluorescent lights have been replaced by recessed LED lights. Each light has occupancy and ambient light sensors and is wireless controlled using built-in mesh networking. In the future, we can reconfigure how many switches we have, and which lights are associated with each switch. Previously the room switches controlled the lights in a left and right group, which didn’t make sense. We now have them set to control the front and back of the room so you can turn off (or dim) just the front while projecting.
We greatly increased writing area by installing two huge 16′ x 5′ whiteboards. So big, they had to come in through the window. We’ve turned the classroom 180 degrees, but the chalkboard remains in the back for now.
The most common piece of feedback we received from faculty is the desire to project and write on the board at the same time. To accommodate this request, we’ve put the new projection screen on the left, leaving a big area of whiteboard on the right. The screen itself is now widescreen to match the widescreen projector and most laptops.
While motorized screens are not that much more expensive, we stayed with a manual projection screen in C202. The faculty we heard from felt the manual screen is faster to put up and take down.
The huge, heavy tables have been replaced with smaller tables that have wheels and flip up for compact storage. These tables should be much easier to reconfigure from class to class. They can be put in groups or more traditional rows. The chairs have also been replaced by wheeled chairs with adjustable height.
We’ve installed an adjustable height desk for the professor that allows you to sit or stand during lectures.
We are using a custom designed touch screen interface for the room. We spent a lot of time making the interface as easy to use as possible. Even better, we made the projector turn on automatically and select the correct input when you connect your laptop. There is also an occupancy sensor that will shut the system down automatically if you forget.
More power outlets for laptops was a common request in our student feedback. Installing floor outlets in Cummings wasn’t feasible, so we compromised by installing several outlets around the perimeter.
Like our larger classrooms, we’ve installed a recording appliance in C202. We are working on getting recording controls added to the touch screen
We are now monitoring our A/V system. This will enable us to provide preventative maintenance, and notice when systems are broken before you do. We can’t monitor all components due to limitations of some hardware, but we hope our systems will be even more reliable.