instruction meets the absent-
New classroom technology
keeps DePaul at the top of
you ever wondered how the absent-minded professor got that way? He had
a brain full of knowledge but a shortage of storage space and no easy
way to access it. Laden with books and papers, his fate was to bustle
from class to class, writing on blackboards and fumbling for that lost
assignment. Thatís not an image youíre likely to find today, at least
not at DePaul University in Chicago. Absent-mindedness is history there,
thanks to the arrival of classroom projection systems that tie in to
the World Wide Web.
The professor and the Web
Now any DePaul instructor,
absent-minded or not, can create his class materials at home and save
them to the schoolís Web server. When he gets to class he opens his
saved files and projects them in a matter of seconds. It wonít matter
if notes are forgotten or classrooms are switched at the last minute.
Every classroom has (or soon will have) the same computer access, the
same projection system and the same controls. What can be done in one
classroom can be done in another.
Though the concept is simple,
its implementation, like that of many brilliantly simple ideas, has
taken a great deal of foresight and hard work. The man behind this transformation,
Lorne Henne, has been in charge of classroom technology at DePaul Universityís
six Chicago-area campuses for the past ten years.
Bringing a/v systems to
1992 Henne got funding to equip seven classrooms for a price tag of
$75,000 each. They are beautiful, user-friendly rooms with three-gun
Sony projectors and AMX control systems that will even dim the lights
for you. The cost, however, was too high for the design to be widely
used, and the rooms went beyond what was really needed to do the job.
"Those rooms are very slick," says Henne, "but now we can do it much
less expensively and provide the same functionality." Whatís essential
is to show computer and video, with bright clear images, and clean,
intelligible sound. "For $75,000," says Henne, "I can now do five rooms
instead of one." Thatís good news for an institution that is now, with
over 20,000 students, the nation's largest Catholic university.
Henne began working
with United Visual in the summer of 1997, during the construction
of DePaulís new campus in Naperville. Just four months before opening
for classes, the entire building was gutted. Henne needed the best
a/v equipment for the best price in the least amount of time. It was
United Visualís Dave Woods who came up with a package based on a high-brightness
Sharp projector. He had it installed in 21 classrooms, two computer
labs and an auditorium before September. "Dave was great," says Henne.
"He came back to us with all the quotes we needed and the installation
time was right."
Naperville was the first of DePaul's campuses
to open with all of its classrooms equipped with installed a/v systems.
In the fall of 1998 they opened a second with their new Lake County
Campus. And each year since they have added projection systems at
the existing campuses, including six new classrooms in a new addition
at Naperville in 2000. No more do you see part-time student employees
pushing TV monitors and VCRs on rolling carts from room to room. Every
classroom sports a podium equipped with computer and VCR, or professors
can project from their own laptops. "When it's all said and done,
we're really happy with the way Dave and the United crew pulled through
for us putting the project together," says Henne.
Among the most interesting
of the classroom installations are new "Course On Line" rooms, where
instructors can record class sessions and store them on DePaul's computer
network for later viewing by students. In addition to the standard
projection systems, they each include a ceiling-mounted camera and
microphones plus a document camera and Quartet Mimeo. A classroom
PC, tied into these sources, captures all class materials--video,
audio, notes written on the whiteboard, documents and, of course,
PowerPoint or other computer materials--and sends it to the network
server. Students can review the class whenever they wish on any computer
connected to the DePaul wide-area network.
Students continue to drive
the demand for a better, richer classroom experience. Students with
more and more sophisticated technology at home are less and less satisfied
with a simple lecture. Bigger and better, faster and more efficient
is the order of the day for DePaul instructors. And there's plenty
of storage space for an absent-minded professor to enjoy.