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Due to budget constraints and cuts across the Millersville campus, the university was faced with potentially losing classes that they valued, but were not getting high attendance levels. To increase attendance at these threatened classes, Millersville needed to get students to the class, even if they were scattered across the state of Pennsylvania.
To solve their problem, Millersville turned to Haverford Systems to implement a solution that would allow professors to reach students on the Millersville campus, and on other State schools’ campuses. Given the needs and requirements of Millersville, Haverford Systems designed and installed a distance learning room that enabled Millersville University professors to reach students at a distance in HD video and audio, engage students in a way that mimics face to face interaction, teach naturally and record each class session.
- Seats 23 in a classroom setting with a lectern
- Polycom HDX-8000
- Video calls QSIF to 1080p at 30fps
- Content resolutions from SVGA to HD
- Includes HD document camera, PC, laptop inputs and BluRay player
- MediaSite Video Recorder for recording presentations and video conferencing calls
- Two 60″ LED displays at the front of the room and two 52″ displays in rear of the room for remote site viewing
- Student microphones with facial zoom for participation in video conferencing calls
- Lapel and Gooseneck microphones for Professor
- Floor mats at front of room enable cameras to track the Professor as he moves
“Due to the economic down turn Millersville University was presented with budget constraints that required various cuts across the campus. Being an educational institution the university kept in mind that education and its students are its main focus. However, there were low attendance classes where revenue from tuition was not covering the costs of the classes. While the classes weren’t seeing high enrollment, they were still of high value and Millersville University sought to find ways to save them.
It turned out that the solution was already not only on Millersville’s campus, but also on the other campuses of its sister institutions in Pennsylvania’s State System of higher education in the form of video conference classrooms. Due to a push in the 90’s PASSHE schools had built a network of video conference classrooms on a high speed network. It seemed like all the pieces were in place, but the video conference classroom at Millersville was aging and behind the times.
To resolve the inadequacies Millersville University identified several criteria that its new system would need to meet.
- HD video
- Clear audio
- The ability to interact with students and professors that mimicked face to face contact
- The ability of professors to teach naturally
- The ability to record and ease of use
Meeting some of the criteria, such as HD video, was easy since it was an industry standard. The ability to interact with students in a natural way was something Millersville already had experience with through a touch to talk microphone system used with the existing system. Recording was already answered due to a MediaSite server on PASSHE’s network. Other criteria, such as creating an environment that made teaching and interacting natural had a variety of solutions, which brought up the question, which was best suited for Millersville University? And some criteria, such as ease of use, was thought to be solved but really wasn’t.
When it came time to design the system Millersville University looked to Haverford Systems, a company that the university had worked with in the past and knew their installation work was of high quality.
After some discussion Haverford presented a system that not only met our criteria, it surpassed it. It included an HD Polycom codec at the heart of the system with audio provided by ceiling mounted speakers including an echo cancellation system to prevent feedback from the speakers firing into the desktop microphones. The desktop microphones, when activated, directs the front camera at the student sitting at that particular microphone. The directing of the camera at the student allows those at the other school to see the persons face and solving our face to face criteria.
While the front camera is directed at the students there’s also a camera in the back of the room to provide a view of the professor. The camera in the back also has the ability to change its position based upon triggering provided by Vadio floor mats that resemble the sensing mats on grocery store doors. These mats, along with a wireless microphone allows a professor to walk across the front of the room while staying on camera.
At the lectern is an Extron touch panel that provides ease of use. Haverford System’s solution for the touch panel and matrix switcher is what really makes the room phenomenal. While the touch panel is intuitive and requires almost no training, a control processor provides almost complete automation of the system allowing professors and students to focus on lectures and class work instead of the technology. While most of the changes from the old system to the new system were evolutionary, the automation was revolutionary. Without Haverford Systems it’s something that wouldn’t have been implemented in the new classroom.
The automation allows a professor to walk into the classroom, select how the classroom will be used, either for lecturing or for students watching a lecture. In lecture mode the professor can walk across the front of the classroom and with the assistance of the Vadio mats stay within the cameras field of view. If a student has a question they can activate their microphone, the front camera will then point at the desk of the student. After the student is done speaking the microphone is de-activated and the rear camera then returns to the view of the professor in the front of the room. This creates a natural environment for collaboration that requires no interaction with the system beyond touching a button on the microphone. This is crucial for the free flow of a lecture.
The end result is a system that creates a natural environment to teach in while providing ease of use which will ultimately not only lead to the success of Millersville University’s video conference classes, it will save them.”
– Ken Peters
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