CBU Multimedia Services: A Year in Review

Joe Way
Director of Multimedia Services
California Baptist University

OVERVIEW

In July 2017, California Baptist University created the Multimedia Services Department in order to answer the challenges of a rapidly growing student body. For the first time in Fall 2018, CBU topped an enrollment of 10,000 students with 264 classrooms, conference rooms, and specialty flex spaces, spread over 30 buildings, with half of the enrollment growth coming in just the past decade. The need for centralization became apparent due to outdated and failing classroom systems, and no vision to continue to be competitive with the next generation. To meet this need, Cal Baptist hired Joe Way, an AV professional with over 25 years experience in the entertainment industry, specializing in business development and live production, and established the Multimedia Services under Information & Technology Services as part of a multi-year campus AV-IT restructuring.

Given full license to establish the department as necessary, in his first year, Joe sought to create a holistic organizational plan that included a top-down audit of all systems and procedures. The plan established was done so with one goal in mind: the end users. Simple, easy to use, and budget conscious were the driving factors. In 12 months, CBU went from having no structured plan for servicing classroom needs to integrating an all-encompassing department that oversees all day-to-day classroom operations, new installs, digital signage, and new AV integrations.

CAMPUS STANDARDS AND CUSTOM LECTERNS

The first major challenge was establishing a classroom standard across campus. Prior to this, technology placed in the classrooms was often decided by the low-bid integrator and/or AV consultant who would draw up a plan and leave. No two buildings contained similar technology, which became a huge point of contention for the faculty. Many buildings had band-aid solutions over 10-15 year old technology. The newest buildings, though integrating smart technology was often installed at the integrator’s preference, without fully understanding the end-user.

My first step was to reach out to everyone who had complained over the past year, and listen. I needed them to know the University is investing in them and their teaching environment. I found out what they saw as challenges; what they liked, what they didn’t like. Obviously, a wide range of opinions were expressed when it came to what people liked and didn’t like, however there was one common denominator: they just wanted someone to listen. They wanted to know their concerns mattered. And that was my starting point. They were willing to use any technologies where the department would invest in training and simplicity.

Next, I personally visited and requested on campus visits from each and every manufacturer and integrator CBU had used over the past decade. I informed them that new procedures were being established, and the days of taking advantage of the University with way-too-high quotes and lack of support the way needed things to be were over. I was starting from scratch, and looking for team players. In doing so, certain companies set themselves apart and stepped up to the plate, offering special pricing, training, and assistance in moving CBU to our goals, and others simply will no longer receive our business.

Through these conversations, a new classroom standard was developed. This includes:

  1. Becoming a fully Extron campus. Were previously a 60/40 split, and with the training, service, and pricing provided by the Higher Ed group at Extron we developed a system based one the IN1608 with built-in amplifier and DTP transmission.
  2. Simplified custom GUI for the touchscreens. Where no building had a similar user experience and often had buggy, page-upon-page-laced menu systems, I designed from scratch a user experience that focused on usability and simplicity.
  3. Laser projectors from Panasonic using DigitalLink/DTP/HDbaseT capabilities. The days of lamp changing, and projectors with outdated resolutions are over.
  4. Going wireless! We are going big on the Extron ShareLink. With classrooms that previously had only a VGA connection, if became impossible for many new users to utilize newer laptops, tablets, and mobile devices. With a starting proof-of-concept of 50 ShareLinks, by the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, all classrooms, conference rooms, and flex rooms will be ShareLink compatible. This has greatly decreased the connectivity issues, the number one complaint faulty and staff formerly had. Likewise, this moves CBU into the direction of flipped-learning with collaboration-style learning spaces.
  5. Out with the old. Though some smart classrooms existed, only a few were even HDMI capable. Most were centered around old VGA and VCR/DVD player technologies. Using the IN1608 we have been able to focus the user experience around an installed desktop computer and wireless sharing while also providing HDMI/VGA and Blu-ray capabilities as needed.
  6. Custom lecterns built around user needs. Another big complaint was that the old lecterns were cluttered, too bulky or too small, and unusable. I partnered with Nova Solutions to create a custom lectern that maximized a flat desktop workspace with minimalist touch panel control systems, monitor mounts, and cable cubbies.

These became the campus standard, while at the same time allowing the systems to serve as the base for other specialty needs of individual departments, including collaboration units, like the Christi Brio system, BYOD connectivity, telepresence, integrated video monitoring and lecture capture, video walls systems, entertainment venues, collaborative study spaces, BIM, and SIM.

BEST PRACTICES AND TICKETING PROCEDURES

The next challenge was how the department would service the needs as they arose. The Multimedia Services department took on a “better to train than fix” mentality, knowing that the best way to incorporate the new changes was to bring the end-users in early. Train and demonstrate. We held multiple training sessions for faulty and staff, introducing them to the new spaces as well and encouraging use of the BYOD and wireless collaboration capabilities. The feedback as been tremendously good, which is pushing forward the timetable for full integration.

A control room for ticket servicing and monitoring was established based upon the Extron GVE server capabilities and dapulse project management and service ticketing. The average ticket has a tech out the door in 30 seconds, and resolved within 5 minutes, which prior would have been upwards of 30 minutes. Student workers are offered professional training along with iPads and backpacks of all needed materials, like cables, remotes, batteries, adapters, instructions, etc., in order to service a help ticket the first time.

Likewise, most installs were brought in-house and can be completed by the student worker team, lowering the cost of a new classroom integration by and average of 65% and lowered the average room down-time from 1-2 weeks to 24 hours.

DIGITAL SIGNAGE

The third prong in created a holistic campus experience was the development of a campus-wide digital signage solution. Where 4 various and separate systems has been used based on individual need, with the assistance of BrightSign, we transitioned 76 locations into one uniform and fully integrated system, based on the XT-1143 and HD-1022 BrightSign players.

Likewise, two XT1143 players became the base system for a campus-wide IPTV stream, allowing live-streaming of chapel services and sporting events throughout campus in near-zero latency, full 1080p60 video. The allowed all lobbies to become instant gather locations of events across campus. Tied together with a tagged media system, each location form dining venues, to departmental lobbies, to sports venues, to event marquees, to student social gathering spots, digital signage is able to be personally-tailors to the current user needs and experience of the moment.

MAJOR PROJECTS

Beyond the classroom and digital signage integrations, Joe oversaw or consulted on 3 major AV construction projects, including CBU’s new 5000+ seat Events Center, a new Health Sciences Campus, and a state-of the-art College of Engineering building which wen one in Summer 2018 will rival the top Engineering schools on the West Coast. We are currently in a large-scale development and integration of the Panasonic LinkRay system for personalized way-finding and an augmented reality user experience.

The Events Center includes a live production booth able to integrate with Fox Sport, with fiber and Dante infrastructure, and can transform from music/chapel venue to sports arena in minutes. An AV-over-IP IPTV system was developed using the BrightSign media server integration, sending near-zero latency 1080p60 video throughout campus. A livestream system was placed throughout campus to also feed the Events Center from outside venues.

The Health Sciences Campus because the hub for the proof-of-concept on wireless collaboration and wire-free sharing. It integrated various systems from ShareLink to the Christie Brio with a full-scale Pro AV auditorium that doubles as a flex-space. A multi view IP camera system allows viewing and lecture capture throughout 15 clinic-style rooms for playback and conferring. A cafe-style dining facility became the first venue on campus with integrated study spaces where students could “take over” the TVs for presentations and study groups.

The College of Engineering will include a state-of-the-art BIM lab and Project Hall based on the Extron Quantum Ultra system with full touch capability and floor-to-ceiling video walls. Joe consulted and designed the room systems from scratch, making this building a show-piece for educational technology. The Panasonic LinkRay system will allow for an AR experience as guest walk the hallways and signature rooms.

AV VLAN

HDbaseT over IP

Full Class-B

TRAINING AND CERTIFICATIONS

CTS, Extron Pro, Conferences,

LOOKING AHEAD

Hybrid classrooms, webcasting, and lecture capture.