WMU News

New high-tech rooms sport wide variety of features to aid faculty

March 28, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- It's technology so simple that even a president can use it.

That's what Western Michigan University Interim President Daniel Litynski self-effacingly said at a March 14 open house unveiling technology upgrades to 13 general purpose classrooms around campus.

Classes were first held Jan. 6 in the renovated classrooms, which feature such amenities as LCD projectors, laptop projection, VCR and DVD playback capabilities, and document cameras. Touch-screen controls reduce the amount of time a faculty member must spend using the technology and troubleshooting.

Part of an ongoing Classroom Technology Initiative, the upgrades were a joint undertaking of the Provost's Office and the Office of Information Technology.

"Technology is becoming more embedded in the education process," says Brad Morgan, assistant director of faculty support in OIT. "We consulted with the faculty to come up with the best possible design based on their criteria. By getting the users involved early in the planning stage, we've found success with the end product-that's why everyone seems to be so happy."

Happy indeed, says Vice President and Chief Information Officer Viji Murali. One faculty member, she reports, told her that the rooms are "the answer to our prayers for teaching."

"We haven't done that many yet, only as budget allows," notes Murali, "but the faculty seem to absolutely love what we have done. Our aim is to make it easier for our faculty to teach.

"The eventual goal is that this technology will be so ubiquitous across campus that faculty members won't even have to ask for it-every classroom will be a technology classroom."

Some 35 technology-enhanced classrooms were already located around campus, but the 13 new additions all use identical technology to ease the learning curve for users. The idea, OIT officials say, is that a professor who has used one technology classroom can use them all. Trouble shooting for the new classrooms is centralized and can be controlled remotely, so in most cases, a tech doesn't need to be dispatched to the room if there's a problem.

The new technology classrooms are located in Brown, Dunbar, McCracken, Moore, Rood, Schneider and Knauss. Two Level One classrooms designed for up to 50 students each include an LCD projector, a sound system, laptop projection capability and VCR/DVD playback ability; eight Level Two classrooms each include seating for 50-100 students, everything contained in a Level One classroom plus a wireless microphone and an infrared system for ADA hearing compliance; and three Level Three classrooms each include seating for more than 100 students, everything contained in a Level Two classroom plus a document camera and a large projection screen.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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