As students and administrators seek anytime, anywhere access to the cloud, higher ed IT teams must face their fears and get to work.
The sight of a college professor fumbling to make a projector work in front of a room full of waiting students is especially embarrassing to the instructor and distracting to the class.
Randy Mills, the university's classroom technology consultant, says along with the projector, each Fresno State classroom will have a DVD/VHS combo player with an HDMI output because many professors still use VHS; speakers and an amplifier; a document camera; Internet access; and easy-to-use connections at the teacher station so faculty can run their notebooks with all the equipment in the room.
Mills says the university's old XGA 1024x768 projectors could not support today's technology. Too often, classroom instructors would create presentations on their newer, higher-resolution notebooks, and when they connected to the lower-resolution projector in the classroom, the formatting, alignment and fonts changed, making the presentation hard to view.
"We felt that wasn't a very good teaching tool for the instructor, so we started looking for a way to give them a better resolution and a better presentation capability in the classroom," Mills says. "We found these Epson projectors, which are just awesome, so that's the way we decided to go."
About 50 percent of Fresno State's 128 classrooms will have the new Epson projectors installed by the end of the summer. The university will standardize on the Epson G5450 in the rest of its classrooms as funding allows. The projector offers a 4,000-lumen output, multiple connection ports and wireless access.
With 4,000 lumens, the new projectors are much brighter, which means professors don't have to close blinds or dim the lights completely. They can leave the lights on and still see the images on the screen very clearly. The digital projectors also offer sharper images, even from VHS, compared with the old analog projectors, Mills says.
One of the best features of the projectors is that they are networked. Using Epson's EasyMP Monitor software, the IT staff has full remote control of each projector's functions. They can turn it on, monitor its use and check the lamp life from their desktop. If someone calls and says they can't turn the projector on, the IT staff can fix it remotely.
"If professors have any trouble, we're here to help them and get them back up and running," Mills says. "We don't want them to lose any time in the classroom, so we are here to support them."
Fresno State faculty are very excited about the new smart classrooms. Connecting a notebook to the teacher workstations will be greatly simplified and standardized in every classroom.
"You don't have a whole bunch of remote controls. You don't have a whole pile of things to turn on. You just push the button on the Extron controller," says Brent Auernheimer, professor of computer science and senior adviser for academic technology at Fresno State.
1900x1200 The resolution of the Epson PowerLite Pro G5450
And if a certain faculty member needs assistance, help is available immediately. IT staff can often fix the problem via the network in less time than it would take them to get to the classroom.
"If you are a faculty member, you do not want to look like a fool, and you don't want to waste time either," Auernheimer says. "I don't know if there is anything much worse than having a bunch of students staring at you and the equipment while you are trying to get it to work."
Because the digital output connections vary so much on different notebooks and devices, the quick connect at the teacher station is essential. "It would be crazy to put a cable up for every single kind of port in the classroom," Mills says.
Fresno State is standardizing on a single HDMI port at the teacher station. In the future, faculty will have a cable that lets their device connect to the HDMI port, and they will be responsible for bringing that with them to class, Mills says.
Not only can instructors use their notebooks with the new projectors, but if teachers have the Epson iProjection app, they can run their presentation from their tablet while walking around the classroom.
Networked projectors also offer a safety benefit to the campus. In the event of an emergency, with projectors connected to the network, campus police can control those projectors from their office, turn them on and send a message to faculty and students.