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Defining and Implementing Standards for Lecture Room Services
1.1 The aim of this Case Study is to document the process of researching and defining standards relating to lecture room services and facilities so that relevant data may be used to contribute to the process of determining national standards within the sector.
1.2 The Case Study is based on a current project being run by Brunel Media Services (BMS) to develop the University's lecture room AV presentation facilities by means of determining and implementing a set of operating standards. This activity has resulted from the merger of two AV service operations that existed prior to the incorporation of the West London Institute of HE within Brunel University. Although these service operations became integrated within one department about three years ago, local operating practices have largely been retained at the two service centres. Because of the relatively small size of the (new) Media Services (11 staff FTEs), it was decided at an early stage to consolidate the operation at one centre. This was delayed until certain influential factors had been finalised at institutional level, particularly in relation to structure and location of faculties.
1.3 The University is now entering a new phase that primarily concerns the transfer of the Faculty of Arts from Twickenham to Uxbridge Campus during 1998-99 and 1999-2000. Consolidation of the Media Services at Uxbridge will occur in synchronisation because of its strong link with the Faculty's Film & Television Studies programme.
1.4 AV services for lecture rooms are currently handled in quite different ways. At Uxbridge there is a purpose-built Lecture Centre (c.1966) where lectures are scheduled via the Timetabling Unit during weekdays 9.00am-6.00pm, term-time, and by the Conference Office for their users at other times. Timetable changes, and thus AV service events, occur on the hour and there are two BMS technicians that normally attend to booked events.
1.5 For Twickenham, Osterley and Runnymede campuses, BMS normally attends to AV requirements in support of departmental technicians who normally undertake routine AV set-ups and first line maintenance. There are however some departments without their own technicians and in such cases BMS provides a primary level of service. Timetabled sessions at Twickenham and Osterley are normally longer in duration than at Uxbridge. Differences also exist in terms of the level of equipment and facilities provided at these campuses and also in the diversity of physical spaces.
1.6 Current activity in relation to the local standards project essentially comprises: (i) the determination of working standards by means of available literature, historic levels of service, user expectations, comparison with similar service operations, etc.; (ii) audit of existing facilities and operations and matching against determined standards in order to identify priority planning tasks. The actual implementation of development of central lecture rooms is, in the author's opinion, a significant strategic planning issue involving multiple areas of responsibility.
1.7 An AV Survey was undertaken in July 1997 that provided useful information on aspects that users thought in need of priority attention (Appendix A). These included:
It was concluded that BMS would be unable to implement significant improvements in terms of multimedia in lecture rooms without substantial commitment from other service departments, thus supporting the case for a strategic management approach.
1.8 Notwithstanding the need for this strategic approach, BMS has attempted to be proactive in at least auditing the problem and identifying areas where development work could be most effectively implemented. In terms of defining standards, the service has focused on two aspects: (i) physical and technical standards; (ii) service delivery standards.
1.9 The approach to examining standards was:
(i) set up a project activity in BMS to determine and implement standards;
(ii) search for literature and internet references that may be applicable;
(iii) seek information from other service managers;
(iv) discussion in local interest groups.
1.10 The local project was initiated at the BMS departmental meeting on 19th November 1997 with the aim of responding to the issues raised by users in the AV Survey. This was one of two key projects serving the next phase of integration, the second being the development of the Uxbridge BMS centre to accommodate media facilities being transferred from Twickenham.
1.11 Some searches were initiated to obtain literature and internet references on AV standards, and are described in more detail in paragraph 2.1.
1.12 An email message was circulated via mailbase to the membership of the Lecture Theatre Service Managers Group requesting any relevant material service managers had produced in other institutions that might offer contextual information to assist with the local project. The few replies received were at least helpful in seeing how other media service departments in HEIs were producing their own service statements, particularly in terms of service standards.
1.13 Local interest groups mainly consist of the Working Group on Performance Standards and the Media Service User Group (MSUG). The Working Group was set up by the Information Services Sub-Committee (ISSC) of Brunel's Strategic Planning and Resources Committee (SPARC) to examine the issue of performance standards for Information Services (i.e. library, academic and administrative computing and media services). The Working Group asked service managers to consult with their user groups and outline aims, objectives and performance criteria for a range of service operations. It was decided that a draft statement produced by the Computing Service in relation to call-out services should be adopted as a template by the other information services. BMS recently produced ones for AV and Off-Air Recording services and these were circulated and agreed by MS staff and the MSUG (Appendix B). At its most recent meeting, the ISSC requested service managers to include performance data in their regular reports and these are currently in the process of being sampled.
1.14 The local project has operated on the premise that in order to provide a solid basis for effective multimedia presentation in the multimedia age, it must first be established that the basic requirements for audio-visual presentation have been fully implemented. It has therefore been necessary to adopt an approach that re-examines first principles.
1.15 The local project ultimately supports the University's mission statement, that is `to produce high quality graduates and research of use to the community'. The University has a good track record in terms of Teaching Quality Assessment, achieving scores of 20 or more points in all subjects assessed to date.
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