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Best in Class of 2022: Grand Valley State University

Grand Valley State University
(Image credit: Future)

GOALS

Grand Valley State University (opens in new tab): Through our Digital Transformation Strategy, our division will collaborate to enhance and extend GVSU’s academic, research, and collegiate experience through new opportunities, modern services, innovative approaches, and supporting technologies. One of our three areas of focus is accelerating transformation through innovation. That transformation includes establishing the next-generation classroom. The goal was to create pilot active learning classrooms with flexible furniture and advanced technologies supporting remote learning.

Grand Valley State University

The goal was to create pilot active learning classrooms with flexible furniture and advanced technologies supporting remote learning. (Image credit: Future)

CHALLENGES

The biggest obstacle was procurement of equipment. The ongoing pandemic has had a major impact on the supply chain for AV components. I had to make a few modifications to the design simply based on what equipment I could get at the time. The challenge was maintaining the designed functionality. The relationships I have between integrators and manufacturers were important. I was able to substitute demo components until my order was filled. In higher education, timelines are critical. Our classrooms are heavily used during fall and winter semesters, so we have a limited amount of time to complete projects. 

Designing an AV system that can provide equitable remote learning is a challenge in itself. Students connecting remotely need to see and hear what’s going on in the space; and we need to provide video and audio communication not only between faculty and students connecting remotely, but student to student as well. With two-way communication, active echo cancellation (AEC) is critical. Because the classrooms were piloting new technology, I wanted to design them to be easily scalable and maintainable. I therefore chose hardware that didn’t require advanced audio digital signal processor (DSP) programming. 

Additionally, the new furniture in the classroom is portable and can be configured and arranged for different teaching styles, so the technology had to be flexible as well. And so it’s important to have auto-tracking cameras as well as manual PTZ control, and an auto-switching microphone array. 

USER BENEFITS

I wanted the system to be as easy to use as possible and require minimal work from our faculty. There is little time at the beginning of class for faculty to prepare, and they should be focused on instruction and not technology. And so with our upgraded system, when a faculty member walks into the room, the microphone is already on and working, and the auto-tracking camera sets the shot without any user interaction; that includes removing unused playback and recording devices in Windows so the correct camera and microphone are selected automatically and require no additional Zoom or other unified communication platform setting changes. 

Each projector can be turned off and routed individually to meet the specific needs of each faculty member, and allows use of whiteboards behind projector screens. I utilized both display outputs from the PC so faculty can use an extended desktop to increase screen real estate, which is important when using Zoom and other software.

THE AV/IT TEAM

Audrey Reenders-Arens, electronic services engineer

COMPLETED: October 2021

TECH SNAPSHOT


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Cindy Davis is the brand and content director of AV Technology. Davis enjoys exploring the ethos of experiential spaces as well as diving deep into the complex topics that shape the AV/IT industry. In 2012, the TechDecisions brand of content sites she developed for EH Publishing was named one of “10 Great Business Media Websites” by B2B Media Business magazine. For more than 20 years, Davis has developed and delivered multiplatform content for AV/IT B2B and consumer electronics B2C publications, associations, and companies. From 2000 to 2008, Davis was the publisher and editor-in-chief of Electronic House. From 2009 to present, as the principal of CustomMedia.Co, Davis developed content plans and delivered content for associations such as IEEE Standards Association and AVIXA, content marketing for Future Plc, and numerous AV/IT companies. Davis was a critical member of the AVT editorial team when the title won the “Best Media Brand” laurel in the 2018 SIIA Jesse H. Neal Awards. A lifelong New Englander, Davis makes time for coastal hikes with her husband, Gary, and their Vizsla rescue, Dixie, sailing on one of Gloucester’s great schooners, and sampling local IPAs.