Earlier in the year, as parking lots around campus remained empty and foot traffic was sparse due to the global pandemic, a small group of technicians from UFV’s audio visual (AV) team moved purposely from classroom to classroom making significant AV technology upgrades.
Decade-old projectors were replaced by digital laser ones; touch screens with smart capabilities were now accessible to instructors; new podiums with state-of-the-art wireless microphones and cameras support online presentations. It was all the high-tech bells and whistles that you would expect in advanced academic institutions.
“It was a substantial transformation, but it had to be done,” says Bryan Wilkinson, manager of client technology for IT Services. “We had a lot of old analog equipment and we had to look at not only replacing but also the opportunity to add in some newer services.”
Nearing the end of 2020, Wilkinson and other leaders at IT Services submitted a case to UFV to upgrade the classroom technology tools on all campuses. Most of the equipment on the Chilliwack campus had not been replaced or upgraded since Building A on that campus opened in 2012.
Once approved, AV team lead Brian Wright expanded the design from the last upgrade design at UFV. With the same cost per room, and some creativity, he led a team that added in fully accessible lecterns, wireless presentation, and wireless microphones.
“Inclusivity was key in the design,” says Wright. “We wanted to enhance the learning experience with voice amplification and larger screens, and from an instruction perspective too with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant lectern, to the little detail of left or right handed freedom with the document camera.”
Renovations on the Chilliwack campus began in February 2021 before wrapping up in May. The team quickly pivoted to improving lecture-capture services on the Abbotsford campus throughout the summer. With both campuses being mostly closed to students during the pandemic, the AV team was able to work quickly and without interruption. In total, they have installed new AV technology in 23 classrooms in Chilliwack and 18 classrooms in Abbotsford.
“The goal of the project was to implement technology that transforms teaching and learning at UFV,” says Wilkinson.
According to a 2019 student survey conducted by UFV, students listed “access to technology in the classroom” among the top of the most important things related to taking a course. As classes transitioned online due to the pandemic, the AV team helped create hybrid learning spaces by making improvements to everything from the clarity of the projection to the audio quality — thanks to microphones embedded in the ceilings. Zoom, the lecture camera platform, is now integrated with Blackboard, UFVs Learning Management System. Captured content is centrally managed and is easily shared among students.
“Everything is quicker and more clear,” says Wright. “The student experience is much better with all these new digital-based devices and technologies for both in-person and remote situations.”
As we head into a future where our approach to education has been altered by the pandemic experience, IT Services has provided flexibility to support lifelong learning. The classroom technology upgrades provide faculty and students a platform to engage in various learning methods and approaches. With the online capabilities and the ability to adjust settings, the retrofitted classrooms are inclusive and convenient.
“The team did a great job and I think the new technology is going to make it more welcoming to both faculty and students,” says Wilkinson. “For students, flexibility comes to mind because they are going to have the option to review recorded lectures on their own time or even present wirelessly from whatever device they are on.”
Dean Christensen, Sam Burton, Greg Davis, Brian Wright