Keeping the Digital Classroom Up and Running in Real Time

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Case study: How UNLV used an asset monitoring system for AV equipment to ensure minimal setup and reduced downtime for digital classrooms.

Name of Organization: University of Nevada — Las Vegas

Industry: Education

Location: Las Vegas, NV USA

Business Opportunity or Challenge Encountered:

Today’s colleges and universities rely heavily on technology, especially the audio-visual (AV) systems that extend digital classrooms to other areas and campus learning centers. When AV systems break down, learning slows down. At large institutions with tens of thousands of students, this can be complicated to administer, and costly to fix.

For administrators at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the challenge was to provide and support AV capabilities for 28,600 students and more than 2,900 faculty and staff. If an instructor is unable to enter a classroom, lecture hall, or auditorium and have the room technology work immediately, this could delay, or even cancel, a class. At UNLV, there were originally three different AV control systems that instructors had to maneuver, as explained in a recent case study. In addition, equipment would often inadvertently be left on by instructors or students, causing overheating and other errors.

University AV and IT managers needed a way to monitor, in real time, AV equipment usage, and be able to administer fixes or updates on a moment’s notice.

How This Business Opportunity or Challenge Was Met:

UNLV’s Office of IT addressed this challenge by standardizing the university’s AV systems on one distribution and control system. They also employed sophisticated monitoring tools to provide real-time data to help make calculated AV and IT and operational cost-saving decisions. The university contracted with Crestron, a maker of automation and control systems, to provide these capabilities.

The team standardized on Crestron DigitalMedia, and implemented a simplified program that incorporated various AV equipment and room technology scenarios on the back end. By managing one, standardized system, university administrators treat the system as an enterprise system, not just individual systems in a classroom.

Before standardizing, it would take two integrators two days to install a classroom. “Now, they can do it in under eight hours, because you just have one cable that goes from the touch panel to the processor, one from the processor to the rack, and one from the switcher up to the projector,” according to Michael Theil, classroom control systems specialist, quoted in the case study. “That means the controls, audio, video, and Ethernet are going across one cable.”

Faculty and staff have a common touch-screen interface to operate classroom technology. This had an immediate and positive impact on classroom up-time. UNLV has more than 120 Crestron DigitalMedia classrooms, the case study reports.

Measurable/Quantifiable and “Soft” Benefits From This Initiative:

University AV and IT administrators report significant savings in electricity, reduced labor cost due to replacing equipment based on usage data, and increased classroom uptime.

The new system provides “an overview of the status of the room before a technician is deployed. We can take control of the room remotely or diagnose the problem faster,” says Scott Menter, manager of classroom technology services for the Office of IT, as quoted in the case study.

In addition to minimizing lost class time, Crestron Fusion monitors and provides data on connected equipment and systems. This enables the team to manage equipment life cycles and see actual equipment usage. The system can detect what AV input is selected, how long it’s been selected, and how many times it has been selected.

Administrators are able to push updated code and any layout changes to each of the rooms. “I can look at all rooms that we have currently online on one page, and get all of the data information on rooms,” says Theil. “It lets me know if there are any errors such as if a projector overheats or has lamp out. I know this often before the instructor even knows there is an issue.”

Most asset monitoring systems will send a notification when a projector lamp is due to be replaced. The Crestron system provides data that is specific to costly instances in which projectors are left turned on when not in use. “Often, people blank the picture, think it’s off and just walk out,” says Menter. The system delivers data from each classroom projector and includes an auto-shutoff system. After three hours of detecting touch panel inactivity, one hour of “picture mute,” or 15 minutes of “no source detected,” a warning will be displayed on the associated touch panel that the system will be shutting down.

 (Source: Crestron)

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