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Managing, Delivering and Supporting Lecture Room Services for the Multimedia Age

An AGOCG workshop was held on 28 April 1997 to discuss this very important topic. The event was oversubscribed reflecting the timeliness of this workshop which was supported under the JISC Technology Applications Programme (JTAP). 70 people from over 50 institutions participated in the event which involved presentations and, importantly, group discussions allowing time for discussion of the issues raised by speakers and by participants in their application for the event. The aims of the workshop were to discuss the issues at strategic, management and operational levels in supporting lecture room services for the multimedia age and to come up with recommendations for institutions and for funding bodies such as JISC.

This event followed on from an earlier event on Multimedia Presentations which was presented by Sue Cunningham at the workshop and which is reported in AGOCG Report 29.

The Issues

Technology is moving fast and we cannot predict what the requirements will be in 5 years time (or perhaps even next year!). This makes it difficult to plan to finance long term upgrades to lecture theatres to support the demands of teachers. Unless we do, and we provide support for lecturers wishing to use technology in any facility they may wish to use, then we will not encourage use of information systems and people will use the safest option of lowest common facilities available. In opening the event, Professor Ted Smith urged a brave, adventurous and flexible approach to introducing technology which we cannot predict and which we have to accept will become obsolete within 5 years (at best).

Barbara Watson noted that the use of IT in lecture theatres is one aspect of the wider issue of the effective use of IT in Higher Education. The forthcoming Dearing Report was referred to a number of times during the day as it is widely expected that the use of IT will form a major part of the report. Barbara noted that, although lecturers did need support and training, systems needed to be easy to set up and use, with problems able to be solved when they occur with minimum disruption. Multimedia offers the lecturer many benefits including: satisfying educational objectives; increasing student understanding; demonstrating events, showing places, conducting experiments which would otherwise be impossible. Lecturers do not use equipment because they may not know of its existence and potential; because they have (real or imagined) concerns about reliability; or because they are not confident about its use.


Each of the groups took an area of discussion under one of the following themes:

The recommendations which came out of group discussions noted that any solutions incur real costs and this is not a cheap provision. They also noted that the people issues are as great as the technical ones and that training, awareness and ongoing support needed to be properly resourced if we are to take advantage of the technology.

The main recommendations from the groups are as follows:


There is a lot to be said for the provision of central services for equipping lecture rooms and for ongoing maintenance and support. Sites need to be encouraged to define service levels. We must be able to justify the cost and to be able to measure the cost effectiveness and cost recovery. Technology might provide quicker and slicker solutions, but are they better? The workshop recommended that a series of case studies should be undertaken which describe different approaches taken to make technology available in lecture rooms and for student and staff use. Such case studies would enable sites to learn from each other. These should include sites of different sizes and should also consider the option of leasing. It was also recommended that a set of business plans and other material (cost benefits, examples, quotes from strategic documents) should be put together as a portfolio for making cases for equipment provision and support.

Staff Development

This is critical if sites are to be successful in introducing equipment which gets used. A minimum critical mass of support staff is a pre-requisite for success.


Evaluations should be carried out of equipment to support lecture room services and to underpin the increasing need for flexible learning. Any evaluation should provide criteria for evaluation. The criteria can be used again by a site wishing to conduct a market survey at any point in time. A database of the information collected should be made available via the WWW. It is necessary to update this and a mechanism for this needs to be put in place. Minimum specifications need to be proposed for different types of facilities. A further suggestion to have "show rooms", perhaps provided by the industry to show latest technology, would help those seeking solutions at any point in time.


If facilities are to be successful in the lecture room and elsewhere, standards are an important aspect of the service provision. Online demonstrations for use in the classroom and teaching resources for self study need to be provided in a predictable, reliable way. Acceptance of standards by those developing materials which have central funding followed by promulgation and adoption at a local level is needed.

Institutional Capital Projects

Sites need to be encouraged to think about potential technologies when upgrading their buildings. Even if equipment is not put in place, it is important to ensure that wiring is available for the equipment which may be installed at a later date.

The full report of this workshop is being written up as an AGOCG Report. Copies are available from Anne Mumford.

Anne Mumford