Number of Smart Classrooms Increase
The UA now has more than 120 “smart classrooms” across campus. That is a sharp increase in nearly five years and 30 more are planned next year, a UA official said.
There are 148 general classrooms across campus, and 331 special-purpose classrooms, giving the university about a 51-1 student-to-classroom ratio, even though that includes auditoriums, said Jean Mitchell, UA room scheduling coordinator.
President Obama requested $1 billion to support educational technology for higher education, according to spending proposed in the education technology national budget.
UA professors, when presenting lessons have several lecture options because of advancements made in the effort to make smart classrooms common.
Now professors have the ability to record lectures and post them online for review, make video conference calls to guest lecturers, stream media and other applications from the Internet, store class materials with the cloud-based service — Dropbox — make digital notes on slideshows and soon will be able to stream lectures in high definition to up to 1,000 users using an application called LifeSize, the UA systems analyst for the Faculty Technology Center said.
“(The smart classroom initiative) started a couple years ago,” Mike Duncan said. “Before, it was each individual college and they would manage their own classrooms’ technology, so there wasn’t consistency. The university saw it as a problem.”
Faculty moved to other classrooms on campus, and none of the rooms were equipped the same way. In response to this, the UofA started the smart classroom committee to tie the university’s technology together, Duncan said.
A smart classroom’s standard equipment is a dual boot tablet computer with both Mac and PC operating systems that can, a high-definition projector (some larger classrooms have two), a Blu-Ray player for media, a document camera that can be used for video conference and lecture capture and an array microphone to capture audio up to 15 feet away.
During the course of three years with the technology of lecture recording software Echo360, UofA professors set a milestone of more than 10,000 video-taped classes this fall semester. This year, there is a 30 percent increase in faculty use, said Susan Adkins, associate director of information technology services.
“The faculty’s No. 1 concern was students would quit coming to class if they start recording,” Duncan said. “We’ve found that it had no tangible effect to students skipping class. The students who would skip before still skipped and the ones who went before still came to class.”
Most students find the technology beneficial.
“The smart technology in the classroom makes it easier to present lessons. I like it,” said Matt Seaton, junior. “I have a few professors that do lecture capture, but I don’t usually use it unless I missed class or need to go over the lecture again. It’s nice to have that option.”
Jacob Lewis, a world literature and English professor, said he finds the Dropbox service to be especially helpful for getting access to teaching materials.
“I use a Dropbox account to store all of my teaching materials. I find it more useful than using flash drives,” Lewis said. “It can help in a bind, too, I had to print out some materials earlier today and all I had to was stop by a computer lab and access what I needed through my dropbox.”
However, not all professors like the technology. English professor Robert Madison said he was “absolutely a chalkboard kind of guy.”
“It took me three semesters to figure out how to turn off my projector. I had to have an IT guy come and turn it off each time,” he said. “They would tell me it was real easy to turn it off and on, however they never taught me the whole sequence. The tech people are wonderful though, I just don’t like dealing with it. Give me a white board any day.”