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You're a professor teaching a TELETECHNET course and the overhead camera doesn't work. Whom do you call? What if it's a light bulb? How about if the audio feed isn't transmitting, a Web site won't pull up, or a laser pointer is missing from the room?

Thanks to the new Classroom Central, such questions will be easy to answer and resolve - one call from the hotline phone located in each mediated classroom will automatically ring at the Office of Computing and Communications Services (OCCS) help desk.

The Classroom Central concept, one that has been used successfully at such universities as Stanford and Berkeley, was developed by staff members in the Center for Learning Technologies (CLT) and OCCS. Previously, situations were handled by different departments, depending on whether it was a media or technology question. However, in today's classroom environment, the emphasis is on serving the classroom as a whole.

"Faculty will be reluctant to use technology if it consistently doesn't work," explained Rusty Waterfield, director of communications and network services for OCCS. "And when we don't have communications systems in place to let faculty know what is working and what is not, they tend to stop using the technology."

He noted that the centralization of service will provide better control of scheduling maintenance, while providing faculty with a higher level of classroom assistance. One of the features of Classroom Central is an e-mail update that lets faculty know the condition of their mediated classroom. "While it's not always good news, at least if the instructor knows that a piece of equipment is down, he or she can make back-up plans before the class," said Waterfield.

As university buildings continue to be upgraded with media and technology, and as mediated classrooms become the norm, developing a consistent, timely and reliable way to provide service is essential to creating an efficient and effective learning environment for students. Waterfield noted that when Constant Hall opens in the spring, about half the campus's classrooms will be mediated. That means an increased need for immediate-response support, timely repairs and the establishment of preventative maintenance measures, as well as an ongoing upgrade and replacement cycle to minimize disruptions caused by equipment failures.

Waterfield emphasized that while OCCS will be responsible for Classroom Central, the office will do so in close collaboration with CLT and with an advisory committee. CLT will continue to advocate for and participate in the selection of appropriate learning technologies, as well as provide development and training in classroom use.

The consolidation of operational units is merely the initial step for Classroom Central. An advisory committee, which will include faculty members, will be established to build a road map so that instructors' needs, technical and service support capabilities, and faculty training and support are aligned. The committee also will research optimal learning environments and be involved in the design of future classroom spaces.

"There are a number of significant issues that need to be addressed. This is only the first step," emphasized Waterfield. "It will take time, but I believe we are moving in the right direction."

This article was posted on: October 17, 2001

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