Case Study: Room 58, an AV-over-IP classroom success story

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The Story

The building that’s home to the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media is a historic 66-plus-year-old building.1 When Gary Kayye — founder of THE rAVe Agency — first started teaching new media technologies, branding and advertising there in 2008, most of the classrooms didn’t encourage a collaborative experience for teaching or learning. Plus, back then, collaboration in business and higher education was only emerging to be the AV mega-trend that it is today. But all of UNC-Chapel Hill’s students are millennials (ages 23-38 in 2019) and, now, Gen Zers (ages 7-22 in 2019)2 — two generations that learn through collaboration and not necessarily by sitting behind a desk. They don’t just use technology; they live technology. Gary Kayye’s mission — in partnership with Gary Kirk, who oversees AV for the Hussman School of Journalism and Media — was to build another perfect classroom at UNC’s journalism school: the first-ever fully networked Extron NAV AV-over-IP classroom in North America. Room 58 is located on the ground floor of one of the most respected buildings on UNC’s campus, Carroll Hall.

The Challenge

The first challenge, one that many universities face, was that all four walls in Room 58 were brick. That didn’t make the design process any easier (as everything would need to be surface-mounted). The goal here was to make the installation still look slick, knowing much of the hardware would still need to be mounted on the outside walls, directly on the surface. Challenge number two was to provide cutting-edge technology that could be hidden. Faculty wanted a clean-looking room that would not be intimidating but still provided all the desired features. Lastly, the goal was to integrate collaboration technology in a way that met the students and professor where they were — not the other way around. In higher education, students want to learn in ways that aren’t one-sided, while teachers want their students to contribute to projects with others inside and outside the classroom in real time. It’s not about sitting behind a desk anymore. It’s about finding ways to engage even the shyest participant to chime in. The anchor to all of this? AV technology, the heart of the collaboration classroom. The team at UNC wanted to build a classroom that was affordable, scalable and, yes, collaborative — but, at the same time, simple for instructors to get up and running.

The Solution

The solution to Room 58 started before any specification work even began. The AV team at UNC knew that every teacher may not need every application or device — for instance, a document camera that would live in the ceiling near a movable podium in the classroom. By identifying the different needs and potential uses for the classroom, the team at UNC worked with manufacturers to see how User A would use the system versus User B. User A, for example, would want all the video capabilities they could get, whereas User B would be interested more in simple screen-sharing. User X, meanwhile, would want it all. Only after thorough research could the selection of top-notch AV solutions be finalized. The classroom was online just in time for day one of classes. The response was nothing but positive; Gary Kirk of the AV team received not one bit of negative feedback. The only ask — keep bringing on the added features! Thus came phase two of the project: a second Extron TouchLink Pro touch panel that would allow for mirrored control on either side of the room (as requested by the school’s faculty). Thanks to a well-planned launch, Room 58 became that classroom, the classroom that other instructors envied as they walked by, saying, “Man, I wish I could teach in this room!”

Projection

Teachers in Room 58 were excited about the prospect of a very large screen or projection wall with the capability to display bright, detailed images. This meant they could instruct on topics like coding and video editing, which become more effective with richer, brighter colors. The solution: a huge 220-inch screen and extremely bright, detailed image quality possible through the Casio 4K LampFree projector. This allowed professors like Steven King, an associate professor who teaches advanced interactive media, to better instruct on topics like computer coding.

AV-over-IP

Instructors yearned for cutting-edge technology that could be well hidden, and Extron’s AV-over-IP system made it all possible. The solution: with Extron NAV, the team was able to centralize the AV in another room but still sufficiently deliver the room’s desired features via a simple and easy-to-use TouchLink Pro touch panel. NAV sends and receives AV signals and provides a very flexible matrix with near-zero latency.

Audio

It was important that the classroom in Carroll be able to pick up the audio — whether in corner A, right by the microphone, or corner B, on the total opposite end — so that live lecture capture and recordings for post-lecture distribution/archival were of the highest possible quality. The solution: the amazing audio-video quality in lecture capture — possible through the Vaddio RoboSHOT PTZ camera along with the Nureva HDL300 speaker (equal to 8,192 virtual microphones) — which ensured students who were remote could see and hear the lecture remotely and remain engaged.

Display

UNC instructors were excited about the prospect of multiple displays that could mirror different content on different screens throughout the classroom at the same time. They also liked the idea of being able to annotate on-screen as the class progressed through a lecture. The solution: the ability to seamlessly manage and display content through not one, but four different platforms — a local Mac Mini, Extron ShareLink Pro, Apple TV and the Intel Unite solution. This made mirroring and screen-sharing a breeze for UNC students and professors. Display hardware in the room included one 86-inch LG and three 70-inch SHARP screens.

Control

Great AV technology is only great if your users know how to use (and control) it. In Room 58, that would mean no trouble controlling all of the classroom functions (screen-sharing, lighting control, live lecture capture, etc.) so that any instructor could come in and select the AV application(s) they wanted to use without difficulty. The solution: Extron IPCP Pro 255, its IP Link Pro Control Processor.

Video capture & videoconferencing

Another primary goal was that anyone could participate in lectures from anywhere in the world and get the same experience as being in the classroom — including the students (who may be out sick) and professors (who may be traveling or teaching elsewhere). The solution: for videoconferencing, the Jabra PanaCast 3 handled all the video. Another featured technology was the Vaddio DocCAM, a high-definition, in-ceiling document camera that lives above a movable podium in the classroom. These solutions worked together with Vaddio’s RoboSHOT PTZ camera for lecture capture and the Nureva HDL300 speaker.


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