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Audio Visual Centres in the 21st century
Initial Response to Queens Building Refurbishment
The following are my first thoughts and at the moment are only presented
here as a broad canvas that will need considerable detailed work as we
1) If Stern Hall is part of the equation, it would appear at first sight to have the potential to have two large lecture theatres, (Great Hall -Stern Hall) raked back to back with a central projection facility located above the central vestibule. This would ensure minimal staffing levels to operate such a facility and reduce some duplication of equipment. It could if of sufficient size serve as a base for servicing other smaller rooms within the envisaged complex.
2) Media Services should be housed in this redevelopment.
3) All of the facilities should have lecturer controllable AV facilities as far as is practicable to reduce staffing levels to a minimum.
4) All new rooms should be equipped with internal telephones to call up AV support technicians when things go wrong.
5) All new rooms should have ethernet sockets for computer aided teaching, multimedia presentations and desktop video conferencing. This is particularly important in small seminar rooms but in an ideal world, most, if not all rooms, should be provided with what should be deemed standard services.
6) From day one the facility, in whatever final form it takes, must be future proofed in terms of fibre optic cabling and termination and have the ability to incorporate new teaching technologies as they are developed. In order to achieve the best advice regarding computer applications may I take this opportunity to suggest that Jeremy Brandon from computer services is also invited to join the feasibility group.
7) All the largest lecture theatres being envisaged within the scope of this plan should be fitted out with individual microphones for each student. This will enable greater interaction between student and lecturer.
8) As an extension of the above we should also incorporate an interactive TV network. This would allow the lecturer and students to be seen more clearly by all whilst lecturing / demonstrating or asking a question. More importantly each student would be provided with an interactive data tablet and mouse pen with which to interact with any image that was being displayed by the lecturer from the video / data projector. Each student position could also be equipped with a keyboard with which they can also input data and output this to the video / data projector. By necessity these terminals would only become live under the control of the lecturer. This would allow more intimacy between all participants than was ever possible in the past and enable academic staff to develop innovative teaching methods.
With such a large facility seating 800, new technology must be used from the outset in order to make it a usable venue. New technology can make an audience seem smaller than it really is; if necessary enabling one to one teaching. With this technology the variations are endless.
Interaction around the world via satellite is even possible, opportunities that this would open up for teaching are infinite e.g. tentative discussions with ENCOMM, the local cable TV Network has identified an interest by them to use our resources for distance learning.
This is not science fiction, MSU has already undertaken live transmissions to Europe and with the new `Super Janet` links it seems all things are possible, e.g. linking our lectures to other institutions. However, this is similar technology to LIVENET which college withdrew from recently due to cost. Some resistance to this may be in evidence if proposed. Newer technological solutions such as ISDN lines with CODEC video compression techniques could be established on a dial up basis and therefore cheaper to operate than was ever possible with LIVENET.
Following the merger with the medical institutions, greater demands will be made on us to provide better facilities. Interaction with other medical colleges or hospitals via TV links will become a vital teaching and communication tool. These systems, however basic in the first instance, can be developed and engineered to our specific needs as we progress. The emphasis must be on future proofing.
To date MSU has installed links to various lecture theatres that have been used for conferences and more recently for teaching in BMS.
8) We should not forget the commercial implications for such a system. Prestigious events could be relayed anywhere in the world for large organisations. The revenue earning potential should not be overlooked.
9) To further `automate' and reduce staffing to a minimum, a central video "playout" distribution network should also be included:-a) to reduce equipment requirements to a minimum. b) to prevent theft of video recorders. c) the network would also allow live satellite off air programmes to be relayed to any room. d) if small self study rooms were to be incorporated into the design this would enable students to view taped off air material without the risk of equipment being abused or stolen. e) with this system of video distribution, small and large lecture theatres could all be linked via TV thus enabling the whole building / campus to be used for one event, or subdivided for several lectures/conferences.
Central Teaching Block
It would be more attractive on many counts:-
a) purpose built, and designed from the ground up for teaching, compromise and poor support services would be a thing of the past.
b) a core AV service facility in the block would be possible, again saving time, money and certainly convenient for lecturing staff.
c) I envisage a hexagonal building with the teaching walls on the external walls of the structure. Other geometrical configurations may provide more efficient use of space. It would have a central service column and projection rooms that can be accessed by the technical staff without the need for them having to struggle through crowds of students with equipment (see diagram)
d) All central services could also come up through the central services column and would aid installation ; reduce future installation cost for data cables, heating, power etc.
e) A building as described would keep the technical function completely separate from the student population and would restrict entrance and exits to the outer limits of the building. In fact, corridors on the circumference could encompass the building enabling gyratory movement of students, I have no idea what restrictions fire regulations would impose on such a scheme.
f) Media services should be housed in this facility; it would be central to the college site and convenient for users of our services.
g) An Hexagonal glass fronted building would also prove visually stimulating compared to the other bland buildings on this site, especially if it was on the site of the Great Hall.
h) If the building was stretched into an ellipse, small and large rooms could be created on the same floor while other floors could be large lecture theatres occupying the entire elliptical shape.
I hope you find these first thoughts helpful. Much of the above should form the core of teaching requirements whatever venue / building type is finally given approval. Certainly heavy emphasis on multimedia and TV presentation applications should be one of the most vital ingredients.
Appendix 1a - Teaching Block Schematic.
Graphics Multimedia Virtual Environments Visualisation Contents