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Penn State University: Building a flexible learning space

University Business, August 2013
Penn State University
Penn State University’s Smeal College of Business created an interactive lecture theater classroom that’s in high demand on the busy campus.

Lecturers are treated like royalty at Penn State’s Struthers Auditorium, a lecture theater in the Smeal College of Business with a range of setups that can accommodate just about any teaching style. "We have designed features to support the instructor’s pedagogical style,” explains Gary Field, research systems manager for the Smeal College of Business. “Our multiple projector design allows instructors to project multiple sources side-by-side—for example, a document camera to show notes while a video is playing. We can cater to a lecturer who wants a clip-on lapel mic for mobility or a stationary podium mic or wireless boundary mic so they can sit at the stage table instead of stand at the podium.”

The auditorium also offers distance learning options to accommodate oversubscribed events such as those featuring high-profile speakers, or audio-only teleconferencing. For overflow events, multiple in-room cameras and audio equipment can broadcast the event to classroom or public-area monitors in real time. The setup can also satisfy the most popular request: a remote lecturer addressing a class on a one-time guest basis. “This type of speaker is typically a business executive with access to corporate-quality video conferencing services, which we can connect with,” he says. “With the multiple projectors in the room, both the person and their presentation can be onscreen at the same time. The auditorium learning space is equipped with an AMX NI 4000 control unit and dual asynchronous AMX touch panels—one for instructors to control equipment such as lecture capture, and one for the control room so technicians can troubleshoot when necessary.

All of these features have led to high demand for the space, which is booked more than 80 hours a week. This implementation of user-friendly, flexible and sophisticated automation and control solutions for the lecture theater classroom earned the Smeal College of Business at Penn State University a 2013 AMX Innovation Award Honorable Mention in the Collaboration Initiative category.