OROVILLE, CA-Butte-Glenn Community College has been undergoing major construction for four years, at which time it was given the go ahead to build several new buildings and upgrade them to "smart classrooms," while the old buildings were retrofitted with new technology. Up to this point, the school's electronic services department has installed all the new racks and gear, opting to take control of the campus' integration itself.
Butte-Glen Community College recently added three new buildings to its campus, with smart classrooms installed in each.
Steve Runner, senior multimedia electronic engineer for Butte-Glenn, was charged with the new buildings' AV systems. "The goal from the beginning was to make it flexible for the instructors to use media in the classroom, with lots of inputs," he said. "We wanted it to be user friendly for the instructors, and to make all the systems look about the same, so if the instructors go from one building to another they won't be surprised."
The smart classrooms are each equipped with similar technology, allowing students to interact more with the instructor, via the internet, Powerpoint demonstrations and the ubiquitous VCR, TV, and DVD players. For control of all this equipment and more, Runner employed Crestron touch panels for 95 percent of the systems. He explained, "I did all the programming and I've never taken any classes on it. When I looked at the Crestron control devices, I noticed that they had Window-based software, which seemed straightforward. So I learned how to program one and that was why I went with them for the systems. It was something I could learn easily and was simple to use."
For such a small department-two full time employees including Runner, and a part time helper-such a huge install seems quite daunting. With over 60 systems to install, Runner had to install as many as he could each week to get them in the classrooms in time for the instructors. Runner said, "We're working here within our department, a very small one, and we've done all the installs in each building. The challenge was getting them ready when the building was open for us. We couldn't get in until the contractors turn it over to us. With our limited staff we could only get like three systems in a week. It made it a challenge for the instructors who were told they'd have a complete building when they came back, but the AV part wasn't done yet because we didn't have the staff. To design, build, install, and test all these systems has been the most challenging thing for us here, and trying to get it in a budget that works for the district was even more complicated."
AV departments are taking a more active approach to retrofits and new construction. Runner's team not only researched and purchased all the gear, but they built all the racks and installed them, displaying the intuition that many in-house departments have. Runner said, "The systems are pretty well integrated, and while we wanted to make them intuitive and user friendly, it put quite a load on us to do so. We've had to come up with something that they'd feel comfortable with and it's taken off from the very first building. It's great to see that the instructors have taken to this technology and are using it to teach. It's working out really well for them."