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Managing Classroom Technology Using AMX MeetingManager

Many educational institutions today are faced with the challenge of having a small instructional technology staff tasked with managing a large classroom technology deployment spread across campus. For Lafayette College, AMX Corporation’s MeetingManager software has become a useful tool in alleviating this challenge.

Lafayette College currently has fifty-eight smart classroom installations in twelve buildings, with five more coming online this summer. These installations include one or more projectors, computers, document cameras, VCRs, DVDs, and other specialized equipment. The rooms all have AMX Netlinx controllers and AMX Touch Panels. The Instructional Technology (Itech) Department is comprised of four individuals, with two responsible for managing these classroom technologies.

Lafayette’s Itech department recognized the potential of AMX’s Netlinx systems in 2001, and began deploying them as the basis of what we hoped would become an enterprise-grade A/V solution. Having the classroom control systems as devices on the campus LAN provided the groundwork for developing a remote management solution, and so, in 2002, Lafayette along with its AV Integrator, Vistacom Inc., began developing custom code modules to accomplish those goals. The introduction of AMX’s MeetingManger software in the fall of 2003 greatly simplified and accelerated the process we had been working toward. After a trial deployment of nine classrooms in the fall, we rolled out the MeetingManager software to all our Netlinx systems over the semester break.

MeetingManager provides a continuously updated snapshot view of room status.

MeetingManager provides Lafayette with:

  • Real-time monitoring of system status, including notification of imminent problems in certain devices before they fail
  • A help system for classroom users, with immediate response and feedback capability through the classroom Touch Panels
  • A system to remotely manage smart classroom technology
  • A method of asset tracking
  • Data regarding equipment usage

MeetingManager also includes a scheduling component which can be integrated with group messaging systems to allow for scheduling of classrooms and creation of “presets” these can be executed at a designated time, such as powering on the system, selecting a source, and lowering lights, among other functions. If a campus d'es not use a groupware messaging system, the institution can import a text file generated by its scheduling software.

MeetingManager is a Web-based application running on a Windows server, which allows Itech staff to access the application through a browser anywhere on campus. During the day one or more of the Itech staff will keep a browser window open with either the “Hot List” or “Room Status” pages open. The Hot List provides a listing of any parameter that has exceeded the user-defined thresholds. For example, a “Help Request” is generated if a user hits one of the “Help” buttons on the classroom Touch Panel, or a “Maintenance Request” is generated if the projector lamp hours exceed a defined value.

The “Room Status” page provides an overview of all systems—including whether they are online, powered on, and their current status. The data on these pages is refreshed every thirty seconds.

Information such as system serial number, IP address, firmware revision, and security status is also available with a click of the mouse. Additionally, because the software is Web-based and user-configurable, system variables such as an auto-shutdown time no longer need to be coded into the Netlinx program; they can simply be entered into the appropriate field in the Web interface.

Another feature Lafayette has found valuable is the messaging capabilities of the software. We are able to configure a matrix of communication options based on rooms or defined users.

Additionally, all events are logged. In addition to help requests and maintenance items, we use this capability to track equipment usage. Six reports come “out of the box,” including equipment usage and lamp hours, to name a few. Since MeetingManager uses Microsoft Access as its database engine, it is relatively easy to create custom reports.

MeetingManager is a valuable tool for an educational environment. It is a true enterprise-grade solution, supplying real-time, empirical data to evaluate return on investment, and easy-to-use tools to help manage your campus technology investment.

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