LAS VEGAS MAY BE KNOWN AS THE "Entertainment Capital of the World," but for two-and-a-half days the city was the location for a dedicated display of the latest applications in audiovisual and information technology. In June, University Business presented the fifth annual EduComm conference at the Las Vegas Hilton Convention Center, welcoming nearly 1,000 key decision makers from more than 400 institutions, with two keynote speakers, 40 conference sessions, and a 20-vendor pavilion.
Given by experts and collegiate peers, sessions delved into topics that are impacting or generating a buzz at higher ed institutions today. Everything from classroom technology and distance learning to facilities design and Web 2.0 were covered. Videos of both keynotes and sessions can be viewed online at http://educommconference.com/educomm_archives08.html.
EduComm attendees--both first-timers and conference veterans--came to learn how their peers were adapting to and learning from technologies, with the intention of applying them at their respective schools. For example, Jake Cornelius, an AV technician at Keuka College (N.Y.), was there "to find solutions we can implement that would allow lecture capturing and student access to media course content."
Anthony Bingham, manager of IT support services at National University (Calif.), came to learn about deploying wireless networks on campus. "It really hits home when you are trying to step up any networking at all," he said. "It's good to see how other schools are doing it."
Classroom design was on the priority list for Thomas Hill, director of media services at Winona State University (Minn.). His institution is planning a new College of Business building with rich media classrooms. Edwin LeMaster, dean of the College of Science and Engineering at The University of Texas-Pan American, commented that he wanted to set goals for his faculty on establishing online courses in the physical and natural sciences. Gretchen Bell, dean of the Learning Resources Centers and Distance Education at Piedmont Community College (N.C.), had technology in mind when she attended a session called "Podcasting: Why and How to Get Faculty to Use This Pedagogical Tool." "I'll definitely be back again next year," Bell said.
For Greg Collins, supervisor of audiovisual services at Purdue University Calumet (Ind.), who planned to meet with Echo360, interactive whiteboards were a hot topic. He said his institution is trying to implement "learn labs" to bring more technology into the classroom. "The buzzword is being able to engage students in collaborative learning," he added.
New York Times technology columnist David Pogue opened EduComm with an address on Web 2.0 and social media and how both technologies are quickly transforming the way people interact. Giving an informative yet entertaining talk, Pogue said blogging and podcasting are great ways for institutions to go beyond what they can offer through a traditional website. "Even if you only have six readers," he said, "blogs are still worth it."
Blogs, he noted, have incredible function as a communication tool "because they allow for interaction from the readers. They feel like person-to-person communication."
Pogue said he thinks Web 2.0 "is the most exciting thing ever. YouTube is just the beginning-there are numerous sites that connect people with similar interests who don't know each other."
The second day's keynote was offered by technology visionary Gary Kayye, publisher of the KayyeRave newsletter and president of Kayye Consulting. Kayye told the audience that by 2011, ubiquitous content delivery will be king. But for this to happen, educators must push manufacturers along the path to true AV-IT convergence. He offered a strategy to make the dream a reality, including this advice: explore educational programs from InfoComm and similar organizations that offer certification in AV-IT technology; buy networked products that will enable content to be maintained and supported remotely; and have educators share information with vendors on what they need in order to design these future devices.
"We're evolving," Kayye said. "Are you going to evolve with us?"
Beyond the keynotes, EduComm was all about learning, and there were plenty of sessions from which to choose.
"Podcasting: Why and How to Get Faculty to Use This Pedagogical Tool" co-presenters Diane Richmond and Julie Lockbaum talked about podcasting as an effective learning tool at Truman State University (Mo.). "The best use of podcasting we have found is where you are supplementing those classroom experiences-where you are prepping people for class and following up that class with additional material," Richmond, an instructional designer, explained.
Podcasting is most effective for lectures that introduce concepts that are difficult to grasp at first. Richmond said that putting a podcast online, where students "can listen to it a second or third time, can be really helpful."
Lockbaum, director of Truman's Center for Teaching and Learning, noted that podcasting is helping newly arrived faculty hires. Truman's new faculty orientation program uses "New Faculty Nuggets"-podcasts that consist of information that aid hires.
"The 10 Best Free Web 2.0 Applications: Real Life for Real Students," a session by St. Louis Community College's (Mo.) Randy Malta, touched on defining the technology, along with showing video examples on its application in creating educational content. He offered examples of Web 2.0 sites that can aid in student learning, such as del.icio.us for sharing resources.
He also advised his audience on the importance of being careful when posting content on Facebook or MySpace. "We have to share with our students the ethics about being involved with Web 2.0 and what you do publish and what will stay out there for a long time, so people have to think about what goes on their resources."
Malta also encouraged them to get their students involved in developing content. "When they develop content along with you, they learn more."
During his presentation on the UNC classroom budget model, Joe Schuch, director of Next-Gen Educational Infrastructure ITS Teaching and Learning at The University of North Carolina, discussed the importance of having an accurate budget for the IT department. He said he used to develop his budget based on gut instinct, which wasn't very effective. Schuch pointed out that managing expectations is very important because if your department has a reputation for poor performance, requests for a budget increase are more likely to be denied. He then shared the budget model developed at UNC, which includes line items ranging from instructional support needs to accounting for replacement costs.
For her session "Does This Website Work?," Stephanie Martinez, web designer for Professional Media Group (publisher of University Business and producer of EduComm) turned to Ning, a social network site, to ask university web developers what challenges they experienced. First, scoping and changing web content often becomes a committee effort, which can make it difficult for web developers to clarify misunderstandings with senior administration. She advised getting the right people, primarily the stakeholders "that really have an interest in this," up front.
Web developers at one IHE blogged their redesign progress and sought feedback from visitors. They never said every submitted suggestion would be considered, Martinez explained, but they made certain all their voices were heard.
Martinez displayed school websites she thought were done well. She highlighted Arizona State University's site for being persistent in navigation and having a step-by-step explanation setup for student enrollment.
The EduComm Pavilion brought together a variety of vendors to show off their latest wares, including E&I, TechSmith, Panasonic, Klass Tech, Alcatel-Lucent, Sonic Foundry, Echo360, CDW-G, SMART Technologies, Crestron, OnPoint Lasers, EdWay Online, Polycom, Campus Televideo, GovConnection, Panopto, and TigerLogic. Also on hand were Elite Screens and InFocus, whose screens and projectors were used in sessions.
Panopto introduced a new version of its free CourseCast lecture capture software that will let users record multiple video streams or create audio-only recordings.
SMART Technologies has taken collaboration to the next level with three new platforms designed to work with single or multiple SMART interactive whiteboards and displays. The SMART Hub PE, for example, enables meeting participants to write over files on a single interactive display or simultaneously with team members on multiple displays.
Polycom announced expanded features for its SoundStructure series, first unveiled at InfoComm 2007, an installed room solution for voice- and video-conferencing with improved sound quality.
Crestron unveiled its new Media Presentation Controller (MPC) line of all-in-one, scalable, classroom control solutions, suitable for either a small classroom or a large lecture hall. OnPoint Lasers showed off a new radio-frequency PowerPoint Presenter that features page-up and page-down functions and a highly visible green laser pointer.
TechSmith's new Camtasia Relay offers lecture recording and publishing on "autopilot." The software handles all details of the capture process from specifying what gets recorded, to where it is ultimately stored. It can even alert students via e-mail or instant messaging whenever new content is posted.
Panasonic's DZ12000U high-definition projector has a warping function that enables it to produce images on large, curved screens such as a dome ceiling or other technologically advanced environment.
There were also a number of low-tech products to support the high-tech gadgets. Cables To Go released new wall plates for the RapidRun modular cabling system. The brushed aluminum plates are not only durable but also go with most classroom d?cor, all while providing multiple signal connections in a single box. Six different configurations are currently available, offering a variety of video and audio input options.
Over on the InfoComm showfloor, EduComm attendees got a look at the latest AV technology. ViewSonic' PJ1173 projector is very bright, pushing 5000 lumens to deliver clear, crisp visuals and high-definition picture quality. It features progressive scan and video noise reduction to provide a smooth motion performance when viewing video, animation, or interactive webpages.
Elmo's new P30S Document Camera presents sharp images through full-motion video of 30 frames per second and is both Windows and Mac compatible. Westinghouse Digital offered an all-in-one content management system that lets users tailor and display their own digital signage.
Sharp introduced four new BrilliantColor DLP projectors (PGF317X, PG-F312X, PG-F262X, and PG-F212X), all of which support digital video content in high definition. The closed-captioned projectors enable IT to remotely check projector lamp life or aid in operation and do not require filters.
Both on the expo floor and in EduComm sessions, it was clear that Vegas travelers had much to see, do, and learn.