Summer is upon us, and for the OU IT Learning Spaces team, this means business! The period between the spring and fall semesters is the best time for us to update campus’ classrooms, and our staff will be busy removing antiquated audio and video equipment, and replacing them with new state of the art technology. This will be my sixth summer of classroom renovations, and I’m proud to be a part of something that has a big an impact on our campus. We’ve achieved great success through this initiative, and seeing that we’re approaching the 100-room milestone, I suppose some background information might be fitting.
What is PACCR?
Renovating a classroom is no small task; thankfully, we have plenty of help! The driving force behind most of the classroom renovations is the OU PACCR committee. Formed in response to a recommendation from the Classroom Renovation Task Force in 2004, the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Classrooms (PACCR) is tasked with reviewing all aspects of centrally scheduled classrooms on the Norman Campus, and providing prioritized recommendations for their improvement. OU IT maintains a presence on this committee, as do various campus faculty and representatives from Facilities Management, A&E Services, Disability Services, Registration, Learning Teaching and Writing, the Provost’s office, and the Information Technology Council.
The vast majority of classrooms identified by PACCR for renovation require a physical makeover including new floors, walls, ceilings, lighting, and furniture. All renovations, however, include new technology as well. Upon inception, the PACCR committee developed a minimum technology standard that was to be used as a baseline for all future technology renovations. The current “PACCR Standard” includes at least one large format display (projector or plasma) for presentations, high speed internet connections, classroom audio, laptop connections, DVD/Blu-Ray playback, a high-resolution document camera, a fully integrated instructor station with system control through an intuitive touch screen interface, and remote monitoring and control. Several accommodations are also made for the hearing impaired, those in wheelchairs, and students who require specialized learning hardware or software.
The IT Learning Spaces team takes a lot of pride in not only upholding classroom standards, but continually improving them. Most recently, the standard was amended to include digital video, widescreen format projection, Blu-Ray over VHS, occupancy sensing, and a redesigned instructor station with hydraulic height control. Control system software was also redesigned to gather instructor usage metrics, conserve energy through the prevention of wasteful use, and for easy deployment by student technicians.
To date, more than 80 centrally scheduled classrooms on the Norman Campus have been renovated as a result of the committee’s collaboration. By adhering to a standard design, our technology has a consistent “look and feel” across all of these spaces, and faculty can be easily trained to use not one, but all classrooms. Because of high familiarization with standards-based equipment, our classroom technicians and engineers are quick to diagnose problems and can easily replace malfunctioning pieces. That being said, failure rates are quite low, and rooms with the “PACCR Standard” have significantly fewer support requests than all other rooms – in fact, we often go up to a year between room visits! Technology standardization has also lent to improvements in our procurement processes, and classroom systems can be installed very quickly at fractions of their historical costs.
Having worked in the IT industry for almost 15 years now, I’ve seen how absolutely painful technology can be for its users. While remnants of this painful technology can still be found in a few classrooms on campus, I’m pleased to say that it’s not the norm, and it won’t be around much longer. We want your classroom experience to be as valuable as possible, and firmly believe that technology can pave the way. I look forward to seeing what the future holds for our campus learning spaces, guaranteeing that all the while, we’ll do our best to provide easy to use, reliable, and beneficial tools in your class.
This summer, rooms receiving PACCR attention include:
– Copeland Hall Rooms 218, 244, 247, and 341
– Dale Hall Tower Room 104
– Carson Engineering Center Rooms 439 and 441
– Physical Sciences Center Rooms 323, 355, and 416
– Sarkey’s Energy Center Room N202
– Nielson Hall Room 270
– Dale Hall Room 211
For more information on centrally scheduled classrooms, their associated technologies, and whether or not they have had a recent PACCR renovation, please go to http://www.ou.edu/content/ouit/learning/classrooms.html.