Most higher ed tech managers find themselves frequently dealing with or maintaining classroom projectors. I am no exception; with our main campus and satellite campus, we have around 240 projectors in various conditions. To stay on top of projector management, and minimize the migraines and expletives that often accompany a large enterprise deployment, here are a few tips.
1. Standardize on a manufacturer. There are always going to be debates on what manufacturer is the best, but to save yourself a world of headaches in coding, troubleshooting, and most commonly, lamps, standardize on one manufacturer. Sure, there can be sale on a particular projector, and it works great for a couple of rooms. Now you’ve got an odd group of projectors in a series of classrooms that, for the most part, have to be treated as a separate case each and every time. Stick to a particular manufacturer when it comes to your campus; manufacturers will notice if they have become the particular brand of choice at a campus. They will be more willing to expedite things. Examples of this can range from troubleshooting issues, advance replacement, and warranty repairs.
2. End of year spending is good for lamps. Yes, new laser and phosphorous projectors are coming out, and they are predicting a long lifetime before they need replacing. However, lamps are not like milk; you can buy a large number in a bulk purchase and they can sit on the shelf for quite a while.
3. (Network) Communication is key. If you are using a third-party controller instead of the handheld remote, most times the projector is being controlled via RS-232 or IP. In our science labs on campus, we use a small control processor and a touchpanel. Both are powered via the network or PoE, and they report any feedback from the projector back to a viewer server. Most third-party control systems allow for remote monitoring and have some form of free software to use.
4. Menu lockdown. When dealing with a large campus, not all instructors and professors always understand the systems in their classrooms. Sometimes they will try to set the projector how they like it. If you have an art history department, you’ve had more conversations about the move from slide projectors vs digital projection than you care to admit. Everyone has their color, hue, tint and brightness preference. And it’s fine, but the classrooms are not scheduled by the art department. In most cases, the Registrar schedules the rooms and there needs to be a standard setup so that other instructors or faculty can go in without having to reset the room.
5. Universal access. A big hassle used to be getting the correct interface for the projector mount. If the projector was swapped to the newer model, chances were the placement of the screw points were never in the same place. Luckily, most mount manufacturers have made a universal or spider mount, as well as variant locking mount. Some have even gone to the point of installing quick release latches for easy swap out. On our campus we have a spare projector with the speed-mount lock already in place. A swap-out takes just a few minutes instead of an hour or two. The lock being at the mount also saves you from dealing with the cage enclosures that were always a pain to deal with.
6. Manage the lights. A room with high-ambient light is bad, but using a high-lumen projector is not always the answer. Having shades installed, or replacing vertical blinds with proper shading material, will definitely help a lot.
With multiple classrooms reliant on projectors, any of these tips will save you headaches as well as time on the units. In addition, the faculty will thank you for the quick response and be able to continue on with their teaching, allowing for the students to return to their joys of statistical analysis on PowerPoint.
Bill O’Donnell, CTS, EAVA, DMC-D, is an AV/Network Design Engineer at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ.