Another round of classrooms set for tech upgrades this summer

Swapping out push buttons for touchscreens, information technology services (ITS) crews will install modern audiovisual technology in 10 general university classrooms this summer.

The equipment upgrades are this year's contribution to an ongoing push to improve the display tools instructors use in all of Iowa State's 207 general-use classrooms, following a similar initiative last summer to update technology in 10 large classrooms, said Mike Pedersen, manager of the ITS audiovisual experience team (AVXT).

When the work begins in July, all 10 classrooms will receive the standard suite of current gear designed to be simple and universal: connections for laptops and HDMI video, laser projector, sound system, document camera and Solstice wireless display pod.

The rooms are:

  • 1310 Beyer Hall
  • 1012 Coover Hall
  • 289 Forker Building
  • 1652 and 1114 Gilman Hall
  • 169 Hamilton Hall
  • 1226 and 1252 Howe Hall
  • 277 Science Hall
  • 270 Town Engineering Building

Classrooms were selected for tech makeovers mostly on the basis of their aging systems (or lack thereof in the case of 1114 Gilman, which has no installed audiovisual equipment). Many of the rooms have control consoles with old-school, physical push buttons, Pedersen said.

"They're way past end-of-life. If one of those breaks, we can't really fix it," he said.

The project will cost about $120,000, funded by central ITS allocations to the AVXT. This year's price tag is much less than the $830,000 in classroom tech upgrades last summer because the classrooms are smaller, averaging a capacity of about 56. Last year's project, funded by the computation advisory committee, targeted auditoriums with an average capacity of 203.

"The overall project scope is significantly smaller, even though it's the same number of classrooms," Pedersen said.

Using some existing hardware also helped lower the cost for this year's work, which in most rooms did not include lecture capture technology, he said. (Lecture capture equipment was installed in the Howe Hall rooms, funded by Engineering-LAS Online Learning.)

After this summer, about 10 more general classrooms are in urgent need of updated connectivity and display devices, Pedersen said. They'll likely be tackled in summer 2020. Ultimately, his goal is to update 20-25 classrooms per year, depending on funding.

Other summer work

The technology added in 1652 Gilman is part of a total renovation, said Katie Baumgarn, coordinator of instructional facilities for facilities planning and management.

"It was a room that really was starting to get worn down and needed attention," she said.

Changes will include supplementary monitors hung from the ceiling, new seats and the addition of four areas for students in wheelchairs, she said. The new seating configuration in the classroom will reduce its capacity from 100 to 71. The $166,000 project is funded by the maintenance and improvement committee.

A more limited restoration is in store for 2245 Coover Hall, a 252-seat auditorium. While the room is in line for a complete overhaul within the next several years, the condition of its seats was an immediate concern, Baumgarn said. Seat cushions and upholstery are being replaced this summer, a relatively cheap ($45,000) stopgap measure funded by fees collected for nonacademic use of rooms.

"That room's going to look totally different when people come back. We need to keep that auditorium comfortable and usable so it's a good learning space for the students," she said.

Another auditorium, 1414 Molecular Biology Building (capacity 196), is getting a minor renovation, with all new lighting fixtures, Baumgarn said.