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2.Lecture Theatre 2
3.Users' View
4.New Teaching Rooms
5.Lessons Learnt

Case Studies

An integrated approach to technology within Lecture Room Services

1 Background

1.1 Introduction

Heriot-Watt University is a medium size institution with a relatively small number of lecture rooms serving a high proportion of technical subjects. Since 1989 it has adopted a strategic direction looking at new forms of teaching and learning, focusing on new educational technologies. These can support non-traditional forms of education and encourage a move towards more flexible access to the resources of learning, but they also need to support the lecturers and students working within the conventional framework of the lecture theatre. As part of this process the University has made a start on the integration of the latest technology (multimedia, projection, video-conferencing) in lecture rooms. Alongside this there is a recognition of the need to manage the process of change by bringing together the various aspects of room provision, management, timetabling, and technology with those who use the rooms for teaching.

For this report we look at the refurbishment of a lecture theatre giving detailed information about the planning of the facilities and the specification that resulted. The room discussed is particularly interesting, as it was one of the first lecture theatres designated for video-conferencing use as part of the Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks Video Conferencing Network (SMVCN). The additional criteria and changes that this imposed on the room are discussed together with the new training that had to be provided both by the University and from the TALiSMAN (Teaching and Learning in Scottish Metropolitan Area Networks) project. TALiSMAN offers training for new ways to use the facilities provided by the Scottish MANs.

Following the description of the design and implementation, results are presented from a survey of the lecturers who used the refurbished lecture theatre. This study looks at how the room was used for conventional lecturing - this remains its main use - and brings out some recommendations for immediate improvements as well as indications for longer term changes. The lessons learnt from this process are examined in the context of the approach now taken in specifying new teaching rooms. Changes include more detailed specification, the formation of a group bringing together those with interests in the provision of lecture room services, and a wider consultation process with end-users.

1.2 The Learning Technology Centre

The Learning Technology Centre at Heriot-Watt University was formed in 1995 bringing together its Institute for Computer Based Learning (ICBL) with its former TV Centre and Audio-Visual Services. The new structure continues to support external activity through ICBL while providing a combined Media Services based on media production and audio-visual support, and forming a new function by offering an internal Learning Technology Service. The Learning Technology Centre exists to provide a strong academic support service underpinned by its externally funded work.

Media Services includes the provision of audio-visual support to the University. This has meant a new look at how this support can integrate with other activities and the possibility of supporting changes in teaching and learning with new technologies. Particular changes noted in its approach are to try to increase the overall provision of equipment and, where possible, to offer these on a permanent basis within rooms. The unit has also had to address new areas such as video-conferencing and extended operating hours.

1.3 Lecture rooms

Heriot-Watt University has a relatively small provision of centrally allocated rooms backed up with rooms within each departmental area. Its room stock consists of:

1 Conference centre main auditorium 600 seats

4 Lecture Theatres 350, 250, 200, 100 seats

35 Seminar rooms 20-100 seats

With the exception of the main auditorium, which is not normally used for teaching, the lecture theatres were built during the 1970's and are equipped with chalk boards, OHP and 35mm projection.

The case study presented in the next section of this report, the 100-seat lecture theatre 2, incorporates examples of both the upgrading that is necessary and the use of video-conferencing and the effect that has on the design and use of facilities. A new role has also appeared with the need to offer training and ongoing support when staff use the new facilities.

That lecture theatre was conventionally equipped with:

  • Chalk boards - 2 rolling boards
  • OHP to separate offset portable screen
  • 35mm projection from projection room

An agreed plan was in place to develop this room to include computer connectivity and data projection on a permanent basis. This would be accompanied by some general refurbishment and removal of chalkboards. This plan was augmented following the announcement by SHEFC of a programme under the Use of Metropolitan Area Networks initiative to provide video-conferencing into all Scottish Higher Education Institutes. Heriot-Watt University decided to implement their initial video-conferencing within the lecture theatre. This was the only installation within a lecture theatre planned for the first phase of video-conferencing in Scotland and meant some compromises had to be made to satisfy acceptance criteria.

A further change in plans occurred towards the end of the refurbishment to allow some writing surfaces to be included. Thus the new facilities includes:

  • Data and video projection mounted from the ceiling
  • Networked multimedia computer
  • Visualiser (horizontally mounted video camera for projecting papers, slides and objects)
  • Over head projectors
  • 35mm slide project retained in projection room
  • Low mounted whiteboards
  • Video-conferencing linked to three switchable and zoomable cameras
  • Room control system (AMX touch panel)

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