Help Wanted

June 18, 2012—Rice University in Houston, TX, is searching for an AV manager. Here is the post from the Rice website:

"The AV Manager is responsible for all technical and production capabilities of the Jones School and its programs. Responsibilities include system design, technical direction of live events, IT implementation for classroom technology, and management of AV staff. The AV Manager will also make relative and discretionary decisions on budget and improvements that must be made to all AV equipment and facilities. The manager is responsible for ensuring that all classroom technology is fully functional at all times....Ability to use the [NewTek] TriCaster. Experience [required] in higher education environment that provides both classroom support and video services for online course delivery and live events. Experience in live video production, data feed setups and delivering event media services. Other skills preferred: ability to develop, direct, and produce video for Internet marketing, ability to use video editing software, and Crestron programming. Occasional work throughout the building setting up equipment and preparing/prepping for school events. May require small amount of work outdoors setting up for outside events and capturing video."

Nothing in this job post surprises me. I am sure it does not surprise you. Still, I marvel at the emphasis placed on IT and AV acumen. Rice University—like many organizations in the higher ed, retail, enterprise, hospitality, and government sectors—expect their tech managers to be proficient in AV and IT even though these sensibilities can be quite distinct. Notice that I say "can be quite distinct." To paraphrase the feedback from one AV Technology reader, a college tech manager, so much has changed in this industry and yet it magically stays the same.

Other readers feel the chasm between AV and IT and want to bridge it without compromising the integrity of either area. As more AV products come onto the network and need to connect seamlessly, we need to stay a step ahead. Many but not all systems end-users believe that to stay competitive we must understand the nuances of both audiovisual performance as well as ITS and its related infrastructure. If you want to apply for this Rice University post on stellar AV expertise alone, well...[insert the emoticon for a quixotic shrug]. IT folks, we know that you can troubleshoot a network, but can you operate a show control system in a 2,000-seat auditorium and run the live sound system flawlessly? Hope so.

This recent career listing by Rice underscores both our mission at AV Technology and the importance of InfoComm's education. There were hundreds of courses available for the 8,000 CTS professionals worldwide and thousands of net-ready products on display in Las Vegas. Manufacturer trainings and industry organizations such as IMCCA, CCUMC, Thorburn Associates, and BICSI also help bridge the knowledge gap.

Many of you know that in concert with editing AV Technology magazine, I teach at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It is a quiet hilltop school with social justice roots and a passion for technology. Our OIT (the inclusive Office of Instructional Technology) enjoyed a brief post-semester respite before a new round of faculty trainings. At Marywood, class registration, grade reporting, and office hours are conducted online (usually via mobile device). Various apps help me stay solvent as a higher ed end-user while others have been a waste of keystrokes and pennies. Dropbox and Google cloud-storage services are utilized (though we have no standard protocol in my classroom). When I stand at the lectern I am expected to optimize the projection system and help students access Library WiFi. Distance learning is also a reality. I believe that the primary benefit of distance learning is extending a rich educational experience to new demographics. We're creating a new classroom sans the room. There are challenges for "flip" learning instructors and staff; my concern is creating a cohesive class community through the ether.

Marywood is the microcosm of the macrocosm—evolving and crafting new learning objectives around blended learning. Skype and enterprise-level UCC technologies have paved the way. The long-term plan for many facilities like mine is to systematize faculty training for learning space technologies such as Prometheans, password-protected CMS (Moodle, in our case), backup storage, security, and how to support the thousands of laptops, tablets, and smartphones that want a piece of the network action.

This trend will only increase in 2013. As Gartner Research recently reported, "Consumerization of IT will be the most significant trend in IT during the next 10 years." The line continues to blur between our professional and personal life, and telecommuting/cyberschooling is becoming standardized, so who is proactive with BYOD and cloud solutions? And on what budget? Are manufacturers like Avaya, Cisco, HP, Polycom, and Juniper meeting your needs for unified, consistent, secure access for all devices on wired and wireless networks? Is a BYOD facility a win for users, students, and facility guests, or is it a nightmare for the Help Desk? (Another rhetorical question.)

As the industry evolves, stay current with best practices in both IT and AV. And please let us know how we can help.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D.

Margot Douaihy, Ph.D., is a lecturer at Franklin Pierce University.