The dongle is going the way of dinosaurs and dodo birds.
Faculty, students and staff will no longer have to fiddle with cables and oddly named adaptors when connecting their laptops to conference room TV monitors and classroom projectors. Instead, they can connect wirelessly with a new technology called Airtame that the university’s Information Technology Office is rolling out across campus.
“We think this wireless presentation technology is going to be a game-changer in terms of ease of use, and will reduce the number of service calls that come in to the Help Desk,” says Mike Lucas, senior director of Information Technology Services and Instructional Technology Support.
The initiative, under the direction of Assoc. Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Michael Cipriano, helps ensure that classrooms and learning spaces support rich media and active learning approaches — all goals of the university’s 2020 Strategic Plan.
Lucas and his team began equipping 15 conference rooms at University Crossing with Airtame over winter break. They have since moved on to the most heavily used conference rooms across campus. Lucas estimates that all 75 conference rooms and 200 classrooms on campus will be equipped with the new wireless presentation technology within two years. The Airtame hardware, which is about the size of a car key, is plugged into an HDMI port on the room’s video screen and connected to the university’s network.
When someone wants to connect wirelessly to an Airtame-enabled monitor for the first time, they start by connecting their laptop to the university’s secure wireless network, eduroam. They then go to airtame.com/start and do a one-time download of the application to their laptop. Upon launching the program, they type in the room’s URL, which is displayed on the room’s monitor. They then get a unique access code, which they type in to connect.
On subsequent uses, they simply open the Airtame app on their device and enter the room’s URL and generated code. Outside guests of the university will also be able to connect to Airtame through the university’s guest wireless network.
Lucas and his team are posting instruction placards next to Airtame-enabled monitors to help explain the connection process, and Help Desk staff have also been trained to walk users through the steps.
With technology constantly changing, Lucas says the move to wireless helps circumvent the connection issues that so many people encounter.
“As USB-C cables come out, or micro HDMI, or whatever flavor is coming in six months from Apple, it’s tough for us to support every single dongle that’s out there,” Lucas says. “This eliminates the problem.”
For courses that use the active learning model, Lucas says the university may install an enhanced version of the Airtame product that would allow several students to connect to one screen at the same time, or one student to connect to as many as four screens at once.
Airtame also allows the IT department to monitor the devices on the network by building. So, if someone is having trouble connecting to a specific classroom or conference room, IT staffers can reboot the device remotely or even update the software.
“This is the standard that the audio-visual industry is moving toward,” Lucas says. “This is the simplest solution – simplest download, simplest back-end management – and so far the performance has really been there.”