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USC Deploys $2 Million AV Network in Prep for Hybrid

The University of Southern California is investing close to $2 million in a project to deploy an AV network to cover 248 classroom spaces for hybrid learning. The institution will be using products from Audinate, Crestron and Shure for the implementation.

The network will address the need for flexibility. For fall classes, the university will allow for multiple forms of instruction:

  • The presence of the instructor in the classroom teaching to a small group of students attending in person as well as to students viewing the session in real time from remote locations. In that scenario, each classroom system needs to be able to capture, transmit and record content, and then reset for the next class, with all the audio and video content flowing where it's needed.
  • A single presenter broadcasting from campus to multiple rooms for overflow situations. The overflow rooms are equipped with cameras, microphones, displays/projectors and sound systems.
  • And a faculty member delivering a presentation from a remote site to students in the room or doing distance learning. There, an assistant would be in the main room to start the session and assure there were no issues. The presenter's video and audio would be on screen.

In all cases, the instructor's presentation and student interactions would be recorded for future use.

According to Joe Way, the university's director of learning environments, a primary aspect of the system is flexibility. For that reason, USC is moving to an all-network-based AV setup, which will "allow us to transmit any signal to any other location," he explained in a case study developed by Audinate about the project.

Way and his team developed a templated approach that can be modified to enable different types of workflows depending on the subject, department and lecturer preferences.

The elements of the system include:

  • The UC Video Conference System for Zoom Rooms, which lets users take a Zoom Virtual Room and make it live (either the UC-B140-Z or the UC-C160-Z);
  • Crestron DM-NVX-352 AV-over-IP encoder/decoder for transporting video over gigabit ethernet;
  • Shure networked mics—either MXA910s or MXA710s—which are used for lecturer and student capture;
  • Audinate Dante AVIO adapters used as encoders with some handheld mics and as output when the team needs to zone the room and cut the speakers near the microphone; and
  • Audinate Dante Domain Manager for network management software; the USC system will manage up to 1,100 nodes when the integration is done.

"It's critical that our system be as cloud-based and software-based as possible," Way said. "By using Dante Domain Manager we're able to ensure we have complete observability, control and security across the network. And we're able to utilize it both with the scheduling system we have and with individual instructor preferences. For the most part, faculty will be able to walk in at their scheduled time and the room will be ready for the way they want to teach. With things like Dante's audio routing at our fingertips, we can set it all up ahead of time."

Regardless of what the class setup looks like, said Way, "we know we're going to be able to offer students the very best learning experience possible."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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