UMass Lowell To More Than Double Technology-Enhanced Classrooms
Thanks to some Federal Stimulus funding, UMass Lowell’s Information Technology (IT) department is in the process of installing 80 new technology-enhanced classrooms. These classrooms, located on both the North and South campus, will contain the standardized Tier 1 or Tier 1+ configuration.
Tier 1 classrooms include teaching podium with PC computer and LCD flatscreen, DVD/VCR player, laptop connectivity, Digital Document camera, MediaLink control system, Internet connectivity, and integrated audio systems. Tier 1+ classrooms include everything in a Tier 1 system with the addition of a Smart Sympodium, an LCD touchscreen capable of acting like a tablet PC, and the additional features of saving the work to a website or pdf file. This equipment selection was based on an evolutionary process over the past five years and on discussions with faculty to determine which instructional technologies were useful and necessary, but still offers the potential to add or modify the equipment should new classroom technologies evolve.
Installation of the classroom equipment has begun and will continue into the Spring semester. Buildings receiving the equipment include: Mahoney (6), Olsen (14), Coburn (10), Durgin (1), Southwick (5), Weed (12), Pasteur (9), Ball (6), Pinanski (1), Engineering (1), Olney (12), and O’Leary (1). Faculty training on the new Technology Enhanced Classrooms will be offered toward the end of intersession, will continue into Spring semester, and will be led by the Faculty Development Center. Please keep your eyes open for training sessions offered for your department.
The project will be implemented by IT’s Instructional Technology Support group. A list of current and future technology-enhanced classrooms, as well as TEC Cheatsheets, are available at: http://gse.uml.edu/inet.
The COWS Are Coming?
The Office of Information Technology recognizes that faculty members are increasing their reliance on enhanced technology in the classrooms, and dependability of these systems is critical. In addition to the 80 new technology-enhanced classrooms, bringing the UMass Lowell total to 155, IT is pleased to announce that the first ten “Computers On Wheels,” or “COWS” for short, are being acquired for Spring semester.
The idea of the COWS is to provide a portable solution that can be wheeled into a classroom quickly if either the room is not technology-enhanced or if any of the components in an enhanced classroom fails. Each of the COWS will include a laptop, data projector, document camera, and network connections that should enable faculty to continue with their class schedule if fixed room equipment fails. The locations of the COWS in each building are being discussed with the Deans to maximize their usefulness and accessibility.
Options for Faculty on Capturing Lectures Electronically
Faculty wishing to capture information from their lectures and make it available to their students can use one of two different mechanisms: Echo 360 and Camtasia. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but both have seen an increased acceptance rate by faculty, and both seem popular with students.
Echo 360 Lecture Capture systems will capture video, audio and computer/laptop/document camera images. Since the Echo 360 systems can capture the maximum amount of material possible from lectures they can be very helpful for students who want to review an entire lecture, including instructor comments, materials created during the class by the instructor, and prepared materials. The Echo 360 system requires a room that has been set up specifically to enable the cameras and other technology needed. Dedicated Lecture Capture systems are located in the following rooms: Ball 214, Ball 328, Weed LH1, Weed LH2, Weed LH3. Output formats include Rich Media (video, audio, screen capture, thumbnails) for playback in Flash format, VODCAST – mp4 video/audio playback via iTunes or mobile device, PODCAST – mp3 audio playback via iTunes or mobile device, RSS feed syndication via podcatcher (iTunes or other). Additionally, any course that also has a WebCT Vista presence can have the captures automatically inserted in the course calendar in the LMS.
Camtasia is also popular, depending on the instructors preferences. While it is effective in capturing screen images, it does not record the entire lecture and all materials in video and audio. Unlike Echo 360, Camtasia can be used in any classroom on campus, making it more available and convenient.
If you would like to know more about lecture capture, or are scheduled to be teaching in a room where lecture capture is available, a training session will be available in mid-January on both South and North campus. At the present time, Media Services is an excellent source for assistance on Camtasia, and Instructional Technology Support is a good place to check for more info on Echo 360. We welcome faculty opinions on these packages and on how we can expand their use in the future.