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

Executive Summary

A workshop was held on 28th April to discuss this very important topic. The workshop was oversubscribed reflecting the timeliness of this workshop supported under the JISC Technology Applications Programme (JTAP). There were 67 people from 49 institutions participating in the event which involved presentations and, importantly, group discussions allowing time for debate 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.

 

In introducing the workshop, Dr Anne Mumford noted 2 extracts from the JISC Strategy:

"The very rapid rate of technological change in IS and IT makes it essential that the community is well informed of developments when they are of proven value. The difficult financial climate in HE makes it essential that these opportunities are identified in a well focused way, in consultation with the community, and that duplication of effort is avoided."

and

" ... the opportunities presented by IT are outstripping the ability of the sector to assimilate and exploit them."

 

This workshop was held to address these points with regard to the provision and support of lecture room service.

This event followed 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 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, that 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 students 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; because they are not confident about its use.

 

Discussions

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 costs in terms of equipment purchase and upgrade as well as ongoing support and maintenance The recommendations also note that the "people issues" are as great as the technical ones and that training, awareness and ongoing support need to be properly resourced if we are to take advantage of the technology.

 

The main discussion points from the groups were as follows:

 

Management

There is a lot to be said for the provision of central services for lecture room equipping and ongoing maintenance and support. Sites need to be encouraged to define service levels. We must be able to justify the financial investment and to be able to measure the costs, effectiveness (for both lecturers and students) 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 making technology available in lecture rooms. 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

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 and then conduct an 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 industry to show latest technology, would help those seeking solutions at any point in time.

 

Standards

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 able 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.

 

Summary of Recommendations

Strategy and Management

Advice to Sites

1 sites should set up Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with a minimum specification on what can be delivered to particular facilities.

2 sites should have strategies to work towards self-drive of equipment by lecturers.

3 facility booking should be a service spanning a range of services (rooms, computers, AV).

4 national facilities should be promoted within sites.

5 sites should have a plan for equipment security.

 

To JISC/AGOCG

6 a set of case studies should be commissioned to report on current practice (good/bad). This should include the approach taken to facilities of differing sizes across different types of institution. It should address the effect of different management models and the provision of learning resource centres (one-stop-shops).

7 a report should be commissioned to study the possible benefits of leasing rather than purchasing equipment.

8 a portfolio should be put together containing management-persuading quotes (e.g. from JISC Strategy) and examples of good practice. It should also contain statements on the cost benefits of introducing IT into teaching and learning and widely into the classroom situation.

9 advice should be provided on minimum requirements for lecture facilities.

10 national support facilities and services should be better promoted.

 

Provision of Teaching Facilities

11 a database should be set up containing criteria for selection and evaluation of technology available for lecture room services and, based on these, an evaluation should be conducted. This should include mobile kit for a short term solution. It needs to be ongoing if it is to be useful over a period of time.

12 sites should be encouraged to set up cross departmental support for facilities, such as video conferencing.

13 we should liaise with industry to set up show rooms of facilities for people to look at when they need equipment.

 

 

Staff Development

14 sites should put in place (and JISC and others (UCISA, UCoSDA) should encourage) staff development programmes at a range of levels to make staff comfortable with the technology available.

15 JISC and other national agencies, as well as sites, should have a strategy for staff development to ensure full advantage is taken of technology and of national initiatives such as TLTP.

 

Standards

16 we need to maintain a dynamic approach to standard development and adoption.

17 information and advice on standards should be made available through a WWW site. This should include information on internet, hardware and video conferencing standards.

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