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Union County College Takes The Latest Approach To Classroom Technology

ELIZABETH, NJ—Union County College has always maintained a strong commitment to providing facilities that prepare students for the intellectual and technological demands of the 21st century. Recently, Stephen Kato, UCC’s director of media services, was presented with the opportunity to outfit UCC’s new Kellogg Building facilities in Elizabeth, NJ, on a large scale—installing audiovisual capabilities in 50 classrooms.

Union County College recently installed 50 Tecom TechPods in its Kellogg Building facilities.

“I used to say that our multimedia classrooms were easy to use, but not intuitive. Frankly, it was intimidating and confusing,” Kato said. For the update he sought an easy-to-use, intuitive, and uniform solution that could be deployed campus-wide while minimizing the variety of components within the system. This would contain his maintenance costs as well as reduce staff anxiety about learning to use the system.

Kato chose the Tecom TechPod TPI-12 Multimedia Lectern, as it represented a complete solution—furniture, control system, interactive screen, document camera, and a high-end computer. “The built-in public address system was a bonus,” Kato explained. “The TechPod also provides instant internet connectivity, video streams, and full-time access to UCC’s own network resources.”

The TechPod TPI-12 is an all-inone lectern that has every multimedia capability built in. All devices, including LCD projectors, laptops, and CD/DVD players, are run from a single control panel. Plus, simply closing the unit’s door not only secures the equipment, but also automatically turns off anything that may have been left on, including the projector. At UCC, automatic shutdown translates into reduced energy and bulbreplacement costs.

After deciding to purchase 50 TechPods for UCC, Kato turned to Doug Cook, the visual systems group sales manager for the Video Corporation of America (VCA), to help handle the logistics and installation process. The full installation team included Chris Finn, VCA project manager; Patrick Gallagher, assistant manager of the UCC Media Center; one UCC tech, two VCA techs; and two technical trainers from Tecom, on hand to provide training to both instructors and AV staff. The UCC team laid the necessary groundwork by installing the infrastructure on time, ensuring everything was ready for the VCA and Tecom teams.

“We only needed about two hours of installation per podium,” Finn said. “The TechPods were shipped pre-wired and required only the simple integration of a Sharp XGC435X projector with each unit. The only internal wiring we had to take care of was the A/V I/O interface in the floor and speaker installation.”

Thanks to the cooperation, coordination, and communication among the team, the entire installation took less than three weeks. Everything that was planned actually occurred in sequence, on time, and on budget.

The last critical step was training the faculty to use the new lecterns; this proved to be a pleasant surprise for the instructors. “The learning curve was very short,” said Kato. “Our first users were faculty members from our nursing program. They were up to speed in less than 20 minutes and have been using the system on a daily basis.”

The design isn’t only intuitive for the instructors, as the TechPod’s internal design insures easy maintenance and part replacement. This frees the staff to do minimal preventative maintenance.

Kato believes that Tecom has provided a huge step forward for instructional technology in the classrooms. He says that the TechPod-equipped classroom has become the model for the rest of the college.

Amy Kenigsberg is a principal consultant for K2 Strategic Innovations, a communications and public relations company.