University of Rhode Island: It's All in the Presentation at URI

By Jane Suvajian

The University of Rhode Island (URI) is located on 1,200 acres of hilly, wooded countryside in the town of Kingston. On the coast, six miles to the east, lies the smaller Narragansett Bay Campus. In contrast to its bucolic appearance, the university has built a high-tech infrastructure capable of meeting the incredibly diversified educational requirements of the undergraduate and graduate students.

The Move to Multimedia
About a year ago, URI began installing advanced multimedia systems in its larger auditoria, putting a complete range of audio/visual instruments at the instructors' fingertips—visual presenters, VCRs, DVD, CD, and audio cassette players—that can be controlled from a single workstation in the auditorium.

According to Jane Suvajian, lead information technologist, each auditorium has an Epson ceiling-mounted projector and a permanently installed Middle Atlantic equipment rack, which accommodates the multimedia equipment used by instructors to display various materials. URI utilizes several ELMO visual presenter models. Most recently, ELMO HV7000SX high-resolution visual presenters are being utilized on carts that are rolled into the auditoriums and plugged into the racks. A system switcher in the rack allows the instructors to easily move from the presenter, to a laptop, to video, or other media.

The Chemistry and Biology departments have permanently installed the presenters and other instructional devices in the racks. Furthermore, rather than system switchers, wireless remote control systems are used to control the equipment in these rooms. Ms. Suvajian explains, "In these auditoriums, classes are held back-to-back from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., making the permanent installation more practical than the portable carts that we use elsewhere."

Critical Clarity
With large auditoriums holding 50 to 500 students, the clarity of the images is critical. Ms. Suvajian explains, "The SXGA resolution of the ELMO HV7000SX Presenter allows our instructors to display colored textbook graphics, small details, and hard text pages with great clarity." The instructors toggle between laptop, video, and presenter, which all require high resolution and good quality definition of detail.

Prior to purchasing the new equipment, the university utilized the ELMO HV5000AF Presenter for classroom use. After the Classroom Management Team solicited faculty input from the many colleges of the university, the school upgraded to the HV7000SX. This decision was made because of the improvement in digital quality, ensuring an optical projected image given the existing software and classroom LCD projectors, its focusing ease, and higher resolution.

Getting Started
At the start of each semester, Classroom Media Assistance staff offer media training for the larger auditorium classroom-installed equipment and short course instruction for the smaller classrooms where media is brought in for use. But for the URI faculty, "The ELMO HV7000SX seems easy enough for quick hook-up and user-friendly operation. Within a matter of a few minutes, even the casual media user can master the projector, as it is well labelled and written instructions can be minimized down to one page," explains Mary Fetherston, Supervisor of the Language Learning Resource Center, who trains communications and world languages faculty at URI.

Going the Distance
While many courses at URI are taught in the traditional classroom environment, students and faculty may also take advantage of the university's distance learning facilities. These classes allow courses to be delivered via interactive audio/video conferencing or an asynchronous Web-based format.

Video conferencing allows teachers and students to link classrooms and resources using multimedia tools such as VCRs, visual presenters, DVDs, digital cameras, and personal computers to take advantage of new education technology. The online asynchronous format uses tools such as WebCT to deliver courses exclusively on the Web anytime, anywhere.

According to Tim Tierney of URI's Instructional Technology and Media services, "The features of ELMO's EV6000AF visual presenters help us in many ways. For example, the zoom feature allows us to use graphics of mixed sizes without any special preparation. We even fold the camera head down from its normal position so that it can give us another camera angle on activities in the room during video conferences. We have the ELMO presenters set up at the instructor's station always in a ready-to-go mode, connected to the projector via the S-video out."

While the larger multimedia auditoriums at URI have been upgraded, the university is now focusing on smaller 35-student classrooms for media installation.

For more information, contact Jane Suvajian, lead information technologist, University of Rhode Island, at JaneMedia@uri.edu.

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