Director of Multimedia Services
California Baptist University
In July 2016, California Baptist University created the Multimedia Services department in order to answer the challenges facing a rapidly growing campus with an exploding student body population. In Fall 2017, CBU reached an enrollment of 10,000 students for the first time, with half of the growth coming in just the past decade. 264 classrooms, conference rooms, and specialty flex spaces spread over 30 buildings required centralized oversight in order to properly address the user experiences of the faculty, student body, and staff. Outdated classroom systems and user’s desire to incorporate newer technologies required incorporating a vision to be competitive with the next generation.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, as part of a multi-year campus AV-IT strategic plan.
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 had 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 departmental management of all day-to-day classroom operations, new installs, digital signage, and AV integrations, and construction oversight.
CAMPUS STANDARDS AND CUSTOM LECTERNS
The first major challenge was establishing a campus-wide classroom standard. Prior to implementing the strategic plan, classroom technology was often decided by the low-bid integrator and/or AV consultant who would draw up a plan and leave, without much consultation as to purpose and true need. 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 every faculty member who had complained over the past year and just listen. I needed them to know the University is investing in them and their teaching environment. I found out what challenges they faced on a daily basis. 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 CBU decided to invest in; they simply desired training, simplicity, and user support.
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. The days of taking advantage of the University with way-too-high quotes and lack of support 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. The others simply will no longer receive our business.
Through these conversations, a new classroom standard was developed. This includes:
- Becoming a fully Extron campus: We were previously a split among the three industry-leading control systems manufacturers. Due to the training, service, and pricing provided by the Higher Ed group at Extron, we developed a system based on the IN1608 with built-in amplifier, DTP transmission, and Pro touch panels.
- Simplified custom GUI for the touchscreens: Because of the inconsistency among integrators, no building had a similar user experience and often had bug-filled, page-upon-page-laced menu systems. I designed a user experience from scratch that focused on usability and simplicity.
- Laser projectors from Panasonic using DigitalLink/DTP/HDbaseT capabilities: Also due to various integrators, too many various projectors and models were spread throughout campus, which required overstocking lamps, and difficulty in managing/projecting downtime. Moving to solely laser projectors meant the days of lamp changing, and projectors with outdated native resolutions are over. Joe has also been invited to serve on Panasonic’s Higher Education Advisory Council.
- Going wireless! We are going big on the Extron ShareLink. With most classrooms previously only having a VGA connection, it 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, totaling over 300 locations. This has greatly decreased the connectivity issues, which the number one complaint faulty and staff formerly had. Likewise, this moves CBU into the direction of flipped-learning with collaboration-style BYOD learning spaces.
- 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. We were able to simplify the systems while also offering more connectivity options. VCRs were phased out over the academic year.
- 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 special 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 serve 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 faculty and staff, introducing them to the new spaces as well and encouraging the use of the BYOD and wireless collaboration capabilities. The feedback has been tremendously good, which is pushing forward the timetable for full integration in other locations.
A control room for ticket servicing and monitoring was established based upon the Extron GVE server capabilities and Monday.com 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. The satisfaction rating increased exponentially. The classroom technology complaints fell from eighty-seven in July 2016 to only four in July 2017, a decrease of 96%.
Likewise, nearly all classroom installs were brought in-house and are completed by the student worker team under my supervision, lowering the cost of a new classroom integration by an average of 65% and lowered the average room downtime from 1-2 weeks to 24 hours. This is another reason for the high satisfaction rating.
The third prong in creating a holistic campus experience was the development of a campus-wide digital signage solution. Where four various and separate systems had 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 with near-zero latency, full 1080p60 video. This allowed all lobbies throughout the campus to become instant gathering locations for viewing events and streamed media across campus. By incorporating a tagged media system, each location from dining venues, to departmental lobbies, to sports venues, to event marquees, to student social gathering spots, is able to be personally-tailored to the current user needs and experience of the moment. This student body has reported that this has increased the overall sense of community.
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 (pictured at the top), a new Health Sciences Campus, and a state-of the-art College of Engineering building which when complete in Summer 2018 will rival the top Engineering schools on the West Coast. In it, we installing a large-scale integration of the Panasonic LinkRay system for personalized wayfinding and an augmented reality user experience throughout the building.
The Events Center includes a live production booth able to integrate with Fox Sports, a fiber and Dante infrastructure, and can transform from a music and chapel venue to sports arena in minutes. A Daktronics video board system and Soundcraft audio are the backbone of the AV system run by an in-house tech team. An AV-over-IP IPTV system was developed using the BrightSign media server integration which feeds the viewing locations throughout the arena, and a livestream system of a multicast IPTV BrightSign core was placed throughout campus to also feed bi-directionally to-and-from the Events Center and outside venues.
The Health Sciences Campus became 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 from Integrated Video Systems allows viewing and lecture capture throughout 15 clinic-style rooms for playback and instruction. 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 includes 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.
A major cog in AV infrastructure included developing a dedicated AV VLAN for all classroom technology. Previously, every classroom was set up as an isolated system, with each integrator configuring as they pleased with no plan for integrating the systems together. In order to get the Extron GVE to work effectively, we created a full Class-B VLAN, allowing us to bring in and manage all AV from the classroom control systems to the digital signage, wireless sharing devices, closed-system AV (like that of our new 5050 seat Events Center), campus-wide AV streaming, educational PTZ camera systems, and room monitoring control.
TRAINING AND CERTIFICATIONS
At CBU, we understood that creating and plan and even integrating a plan can sometimes be the easy part. Maintaining the plan and daily needs after implementation was going to be just as important. For this reason, becoming professionally certified was an important aspect of the plan. I achieved my CTS certification, myself and staff received Extron Control Professional certification and joined member organizations like AVIXA and DET/CHE. Robust conference and manufacture training attendance plans were put into effect, with ten different events attended according to the imminent needs at the time.
The next phase for this upcoming academic year includes integrating all the proof-of-concepts from year one into all individual classrooms, creating hybrid and flipped classrooms, webcasting, and lecture capture. We are working on advanced Extron Perl scripting that can integrate with the RFID ID cards of the faculty so that each room recognizes the user upon entry and customized the setup according to their pre-selected preferences. Likewise, a new state-of-the-art library is under development for completion during the 2019 academic year.