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Customized classrooms make it easier on professors

A cooperative effort between computer services, maintenance, and faculty has produced six new hi-tech classrooms. The rooms, tailored to professors’ requests, ended up costing the college a fraction of what they would have had the project been let out to a firm specializing in these renovations, says Brian Van Donselaar, director of computer services.

Building on last year’s decision to supply all faculty with laptop instead of desktop computers, eighteen to twenty classrooms are now equipped so that professors can walk into class with their laptops and within seconds be ready to display documents, spreadsheets, or power point presentations; play videos, CDs, or DVDs; or access the Internet.

“One push of the button on one remote turns on the whole system,” says Van Donselaar, who adds that the technology requires almost no training to use.

Last spring, computer services took an existing technology classroom and retrofitted it with a prototype system they thought they could use for all classrooms. Maintenance built the podium and structure for the technology, computer services ordered and installed the equipment, and the faculty tested it for the last four to five weeks of the semester.

This summer computer services held open houses to allow faculty to play with the setup and tell them what was working and what wasn’t.

“We had discussions about whether to put the outlet on the top of the podium or the side, how wide the podium should be to fit both laptop and notes, and more,” says Van Donselaar. As a group they weighed the benefits (easier access) and drawbacks (coffee spilling in the outlet) of implementing suggestions. Many good comments were offered and everyone took ownership for the design.

“We ended up with a much better product, and it saves us from complaints in the future,” says Van Donselaar. “We don’t teach so we don’t know exactly what works best, but we take pride in meeting the educational needs of the institution,” says Van Donselaar. “When everyone involved is happy, we’re happy.”