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Managing and Securing Classroom Technology Assets

Managing and securing classroom technology assets has become a challenging task for educational institutions across the country. The sheer volume and rising cost of technology, coupled with equipment management requirements, has prompted universities to seek out effective, yet economical ways to administer and secure classroom equipment.

What might seem like minor technical glitches in the classroom can turn into monumental problems over time and have a profound effect on professor and student performance in the classroom. For example, changing a light bulb in your home is a relatively minor task, but when a classroom projector lamp g'es out, professor and student learning time is compromised. The time it takes for the professor to notify a technician and have that person change the lamp can take up valuable classroom time.

Also of concern to classroom technology departments is theft of equipment. A variety of theft prevention methods are used, including electronic cable alarms, tampe-proof screws, and standalone room theft systems. However, if the appropriate person to respond to alarms is not in the area, these devices are often rendered ineffective. In addition, these types of theft prevention devices do not track security breach patterns.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has struggled with each of these issues relating to managing and securing technology assets. Solving these prolems became ever more important when the university’s Office of Classroom Management implemented a $7 million program to bring advanced data projection capability to 300 classrooms in 63 buildings. The challenge: installation of a system that will reduce maintenance costs and improve classroom uptime.

At the University of Minnesota, the implementation of classroom technology on this scale required improved tracking equipment usage and failure data. With new and advanced classroom technology becoming essential, the university needed to track the equipment being used, how often it was used, and what problems occurred. Having an organized reporting structure for this type of usage data would assist the staff in making equipment purchasing decisions and in managing lifecycle equipment maintenance and replacement.

The university considered setting up a server and developing a software program that would monitor classroom equipment and provide data on usage, problems, failure, and theft—all controlled from a central help desk.

Before beginning the arduous task of developing a program in house, the university learned about a software solution from AMX that contained all the needed functionality. The university currently uses AMX’s NetLinx control processor to control classroom equipment, monitor equipment maintenance, and send data to system administrators.

It was necessary for the university to interpret the data and create reports to better track how the equipment is used, and to know immediately when equipment problems occur so they can be promptly corrected. The university also needed a functionality that would notify the system administrators online when a potential equipment theft is in progress.

AMX’s MeetingManager has proved extremely useful because it finds problems with classroom audio and video equipment, and notifies system administrators of these issues before they become problems for the instructor. It reduces classroom down time, saving time and resources.

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities had been paying students to go to each classroom weekly and test the equipment in the room, but it was looking for something more cost-effective and timely. With the new system administrators know immediately when the network has gone offline, or when equipment such as computers, DVD players, and document cameras are malfunctioning. And as for projector lamps, the software keeps track of lamp life so those system administrators are notified before lamps die.

The university originally focused on the need to monitor rooms to keep up with equipment problems, but also was impressed with the software’s reporting capabilities. They receive valuable usage data such as how much time various media devices are being used, how often lamps need changing, and which equipment needs attention. This proves useful for technology planning, operations, and management.

Where asset management and security remain a high priority, the system provides greater efficiencies and improved response times. It can detect instantly if a device has been disconnected without authorization and notify security of a possible theft in progress, helping to protect significant investment in high-end presentation electronics and control technology.

Both NetLinx and MeetingManager are cost effective because of the reduction in time and resources, as well as the number of potential thefts being prevented. The university found the technology solutions they deployed so effective that they are making the classroom presentation systems and management technology support available to other institutions. Monitoring, managing, and securing classroom equipment are issues university departments are grappling with, but it’s a manageable process. The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is confident that it has implemented an innovative answer to successfully and cost-effectively save time and resources, while protecting valuable technology assets.

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