2020 has been a year like no other. With New Hampshire going into a state of emergency in early March and in-person classes being suspended shortly thereafter statewide, there was an urgent need for hybrid-class technology. Fortunately, the New Hampshire University System (USNH) had prepared for it and was ready when the time came faster than expected.
The technical decision
Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, USNH was already working on a plan to modernize a small number of classrooms on its campuses.
The tech teams had worked together to come up with their own perfect recipe for what they wanted to do in a typical classroom.
Once the virus hit, they jumped into action and were at the forefront of implementing these upgrades when given the green light.
USNH IT Director Bill Poirier came to see Marshall White, the new Enterprise and Services (ET&S) Director for Learning and Space Technologies (LTS), informing him that the Chancellor was ready to move forward with the media upgrade plan.
There were high expectations to provide a great experience for USNH faculty and students. With this, the LST team, made up of AV professionals from each USNH institution, got to work implementing their classroom designs.
The concept was to convert classrooms from analog systems to digital systems and provide a high-quality experience for distant students to see and hear instructors better, allowing face-to-face and distant classmates to feel like they were in. they were still together.
The USNH LST team has worked diligently with New Hampshire-based vendors, such as CCS Presentation Systems New England of Nashua, NH, to rapidly deliver distance learning capability to 50% of its classrooms across Keene State College, Plymouth State University, University of New Hampshire -Durham, University of New Hampshire-Manchester, Franklin Pierce School of Law and Granite State College.
The hybrid-class technology system
A total of 193 zoom classrooms have been upgraded, adding flexibility for students and faculty. Of these classrooms, the CCS has equipped 98 of them with high-tech audio and video systems that allow students to attend classes in person or remotely and to see and hear each other clearly, while giving teachers the opportunity to teach at home.
Installed technology included:
- 1Beyond AutoTracker 3 cameras at the back of the rooms to follow the presenter, thanks to facial recognition
- Vaddio SE Qmini wide-angle cameras focused on students from the front to capture students in the classroom
- Panasonic TH-65EQ1U 4K Reference Monitors for Rear Presenter
- Legrand-Chief display wall and ceiling mounts and Middle Atlantic racks
- Shure Microflex AEC ceiling microphones for indoor miking with Sure mixers
- Domain Manager Audinate Dante (DDM)
- Crestron Digital Media 8G + with 7 “control panels, HDMI over CAT Tx / Rx, DA and occupancy sensors
- INOGENI – SDI to USB 2.0 MJPEG encoders
- FSR Ceiling Racks
- Spectrum desks with Connectrac equipment racks and floor rails, allowing cables to pass through the floor in accordance with ADA and fire code
It was important for USNH to employ locally qualified vendors in the state of New Hampshire for this extremely tight schedule project. USNH already had a great history and working relationship with CCS.
With this specific project, there has been a lot of collaboration between USNH and CCS engineers, starting with classroom site visits. As challenges were identified, the team adapted on the fly and worked together to find an effective solution.
When the CARES Act funding became available to ensure emergency continuity of training, the IOC and the USNH Chancellor requested it, received it, and were able to use the funding for this project.
USNH knew that New Hampshire had a number of high quality AV integrators, which made it a competitive bidding process for everyone. In the end, USNH was happy to source locally and provide work for a New Hampshire-based company that not only did the job well, but also completed it on time and on budget. .
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Since installation, the upgrades have been well received and have improved classroom discussions and collaboration on all campuses. USNH has received positive feedback from staff and students.
This work was important. In a time when we can’t be together, new hybrid classroom technology offers an immersive experience, making teachers and students feel like they’re still in the same classroom.