“A Choice to Change the World” is the motto of Atlanta’s historic Spelman College. It’s a fitting motto for a culturally significant university that pushes to remain on the leading edge of post-secondary education strategies and technologies. For the last six years ASW has been Spelman’s partner in presentation technology design and integration, working closely with Manager of Educational Media, Theo McNair to deliver cutting edge systems that have proven to be both simple and dependable.
An early project was a renovation of Cosby Auditorium, where ASW installed a new mixer, Biamp DSP, and a control system. The control system merged all of the systems to a single point of control, though operators have an option of manual or automated functionality. The mixed manual/automated approach is often found in venues that see a number of different operators with varying degrees of experience behind the boards. In the Cosby Auditorium, ASW programmed the control system so that a theatrical tech wasn’t required for lectures and simple events. Audio, video and even the DMX lighting system were unified onto a single control surface and presented so that significant training isn’t required. In fact, McNair and ASW are working together now to plan the next upgrade of the auditorium, replacing that legacy lighting board and an old video projector. “The auditorium has to be upgraded in phases because it is simply too expensive to do a massive refresh every time,” says McNair. “Smaller, more frequent changes are easier to fund and manage, but it’s important to keep continuity in the technology support team. ASW has built up a lot of institutional knowledge around Spelman College, and that helps us all get more value out of these opportunities.”
One big reason why ASW has gained such an understanding of the college’s capabilities and requirements is because three years ago McNair and ASW developed a standardized classroom technology package that’s now been deployed in nearly 30 rooms. Shane Boyce of ASW says, “We were intent on making future-proof choices. When a lot of people were still throwing up four by three standard definition style screens, we understood that to be a waste of money and chose wider sixteen by nine screens. It seems simple and obvious today, but we knew that the screens needed to outlast the projectors, and the trend was to the HD style aspect ratio.” Another critical choice was to simplify the instructor’s interaction with the system: “The systems we were replacing had touch panels with really confusing button layouts on them. Touch panels are great, but they shouldn’t be an automatic choice. We used Extron MLC systems instead, which reduced cost but also kept operation very simple,” Shane tells us. “Those rooms have several classes a day, all taught by different instructors.”
Though the systems are standardized, they are not designed to be identical. Depending on the room requirements, one of two styles of custom designed lecterns is used to house all of the equipment. Fabricated by Spectrum Furniture, the lecterns feature the Spelman College seal laser etched into the front. The instructor, however, is looking down at an interactive tablet that allows annotation over video and slides without having to constantly face away from the class and look at a projector or write on a whiteboard. That keeps the classes more engaging for the students, and “we’ve seen a big decrease in service requests over the old systems. These are easier to use and a lot more robust,” says McNair.
Better fitting technology that reduces maintenance requirements – that’s the perfect combination that ASW has delivered to Spelman College. If your goal is to change the world, you shouldn’t have to worry about broken and complicated presentation systems getting in your way. For ASW, it’s not about integration, it’s about empowering clients’ missions.