All Penn College Classrooms, Labs Multimedia-Equipped
Pennsylvania College of Technology recently reached the milestone of having multimedia instructional technology installed in every classroom and lab across campus.
Each classroom and instructional lab at the institution's four primary academic locations the main campus in Williamsport, the Schneebeli Earth Science Center near Allenwood, the Lumley Aviation Center at the Williamsport Regional Airport and the Advanced Automotive Training Center in Williamsport's west end features permanently installed multimedia equipment.
While the specific components vary by location based on the needs of varying curriculums each room contains at least a basic configuration including an instructor's computer station, a mounted data/video projector, a video player, a document camera or transparency projector, a projection screen and a writing surface.
Additionally, Audio/Visual Services, a division of Information Technology Services at Penn College, has completed installing equipment in every open meeting room with a seating capacity of at least 12. These sites are used by student groups, faculty, college councils and committees, and external clients.
The achievement is the result of a decade-long planning effort initially spearheaded by the Instructional Technology department, then led by Fred Gilmour, who also holds "professor emeritus" status at the college. Joe Miller, manager of audio/visual services, noted that, when he arrived at the institution in the 1990s, there were eight classrooms with projection equipment installed. The equipment was bulky, loud and dim, requiring that all the lights had to be turned off and the window shades closed for proper viewing.
There are now more than 175 locations with multimedia equipment. The evolution of brighter, higher-resolution and more compact projectors has enabled their application for an increasingly wide range of instructional purposes.
"I am continually amazed at the creativity of our faculty in determining new and relevant ways to use instructional equipment in their classrooms," Miller said.
Jim Cunningham, vice president for information technology, notes that, even though Penn College has achieved this milestone, with projection technologyevolving quickly, the college can't rest on its laurels. Plans are being developed to begin upgrading to LED-based projectors. LED lamps have a much longer life expectancy, allowing Penn College to focus limited budget resources on equipment rather than lamp replacement.
The challenge now is being able to service and maintain such a large inventory. Technology has come to the aid in this effort, as well. Approximately half of the classrooms are connected via the college's computer network, allowing Audio/Visual Services staff to monitor equipment usage, spot problems before they occur and diagnose and repair operational issues remotely.
"We hope to have every room in the institution linked to the campus network within the next 18 months," Miller said.
Ron Miller, director of academic computing, desktop computing and audio/visual services, said networking Penn College's audio/visual equipment provides another benefit to faculty and staff: the ability to easily operate the equipment without the use of a remote. Wall-mounted control devices from Extron let users switch from desktop data projection, to document camera projection, to laptop data projection with the push of a button.
College staff continue to explore instructional tools that enable learning to be more effective and interactive. Recent initiatives have included the use of classroom response systems, audio and video classroom capturing, and a variety of other tools.
Classroom response systems, also known as "clickers," allow live polling of students in response to questions or surveys. Results are displayed immediately.
In addition, various approaches to classroom capturing are taking place that allow a student presentation, guest speaker or lecture to be audio- and video-recorded and then uploaded to a streaming server for student access after class.