Managing, Delivering and Supporting Lecture Room Services for the Multimedia Age
IntroductionA workshop on the topic of "Managing, Delivering and Supporting Lecture Room Services for the Multimedia Age" was held in April 1997 under the auspices of the Advisory Group On Computer Graphics (AGOCG). The workshop recommended that a series of case studies be put together which allowed for the wider sharing of experience in the management, delivery and support of lecture room services.
Nine case studies were funded, reflecting lecture room service issues in a variety of institutions, from the relatively small University College Worcester, to large institutions such as Leeds University. Although there seems to be a shift away from traditional learning techniques towards more individual learning, it seems clear that there will be a need for high quality teaching space for groups of students for some time to come. Implementation of lecture room services for theses teaching spaces will obviously vary from institution to institution, depending on size, current facilities and teaching needs. However, many common factors and recommendations were highlighted in the case study reports. These can be divided into a number of sections:
"The technology needed to support classroom teaching spaces increases in scale and complexity. Until only a few years ago all that a lecture room needed was some seats for the students, and a blackboard and a lectern or table for the teacher. Then came the OHP, slide projector and the return of TV with video player. Now there is the computer and networks and related display tools. From having a next to zero maintenance cost, the teaching room is becoming not only costly to equip, but costly to run and maintain, including the escalating costs of security."These increasing costs and increasing complexity of lecture rooms and teaching spaces require that a strategic framework, which recognises changing users needs, is in place. When changes are planned in teaching facilities, this framework must specify a consultation process between all interested parties. These may include Media Services, Estates and Services, Learning Support Services, departmental representatives, planning and funding bodies. Planning must take in to account future needs and developments, for example by installing suitable trunking for the easy addition of video conferencing or other networking facilities, even if they are not required at the present time.
The main teaching spaces should be equipped with a (minimum) standard set of presentation equipment, and full details of what is, and is not, available in each room must be widely publicised. Without this knowledge and standardisation, lecturers will fall back to using the 'safest' common denominator of whiteboard, OHP and 35mm slides.
Once facilities are available, timetabling needs to be approached carefully. Complex and fragmented timetabling and booking systems were highlighted as a significant barrier to the easy uptake of multimedia presentation systems in several of the case studies. An integrated central approach, which includes booking the technology alongside basic facilities, should be taken, perhaps through the creation of a single, widely accessible database. Allocation of rooms should consider not only the class size, but also the level of presentation facilities required. Presentation equipment need not be permanently installed in smaller rooms, as portable equipment can provide a very cost effective solution, for example with one 'multimedia trolley' being assigned to each set of seminar rooms. Security is obviously an issue here, but the provision of lockable security cases for such equipment has proved satisfactory.
With regards to presentation equipment within teaching spaces there are two main groups of people who require training, the lecturers and the support staff, though increasingly students will also be seeking training in presentation skills.
LecturersFormal teaching approaches have not been successful in introducing staff to new equipment, with courses often generating little interest. More informal, 'hands-on' teaching has been appreciated, however. In the development, presentation and evaluation of a training course at Queen's University, Belfast, it was found that: Training should be driven by the pedagogical requirements of the teacher and student, and not led by the technology. It is important that the training shows how technology can be used to support and enhance established training methods, rather than training staff just to use the technology
Support StaffLecture room support staff now need a comprehensive range of skills, which must be continually developed as new equipment is put in place. Therefore effective systems must be implemented to ensure their own staff development. Currently there is a noticeable lack of any formal training for Audio Visual support staff and technicians. To ensure that support is available at the level required there is a need for a structured course and appropriate syllabus, resulting in a recognised professional qualification.
At Brunel University the benchmark for achieving delivery of support services for prearranged events is 100%, as staff and students rapidly lose confidence in newer technology, even if it only fails occasionally. Recommendations from the case studies to help achieve this include:
Technical StandardsSpecific technical standards are hard to define in such a rapidly changing area. Indeed, such is the speed of change that Keith Buckman of Brunel university feels that they are changing
"to such an extent that several changes can be expected within the timescale likely to be achieved by any national standards review process. To this extent, technical standards will inevitably be culturally driven by manufacturers, suppliers, and local service operators"Some general recommendations can be made:
Screens and Seating
Graphics Multimedia Virtual Environments Visualisation Contents