Interesting Day – The Sign Of The Future – Distance Education – University of Northern Iowa

It has been an interesting day so far. 


First, I have the opportunity of leading a great team at UNI. We have the opportunity of integrating technologies and resources like IP based video conferencing (desktop, video bridge, and room systems), video and audio streaming (different products), cable TV distribution (on and off campus content), multimedia classroom integration and support, live and on demand classroom capture (multiple products), live webinar technologies (different technologies here too :-)), digital signage, and many other multimedia communications technologies for our university.


Like many technology integration and support staff, we hit the ground running in the morning and try to get out the door at night in time to make it home to spend some time with our families. We love the challenge meeting the needs technology wise of our university and in my case, I also like addressing items like the budget, strategic planning, and the research and development of new product integrations at UNI to name a few.


The day is fulfilled when demands are met, event is complete successfully, systems are set up and running, users are happy with the service, etc. For me the money is a smaller motivator than the outcomes based on meeting the needs of the team, meeting the strategic plan of our University and meeting the needs of our constituents on and off campus.


So, back to a normal morning. It started off with about and hour early checking and answering email before leaving home, then 4 phone calls during the commute (hands free calls using headset :-)). 2 calls trying to get some additional funding from constituents on campus to help roll out additional functionality in some technologies already deployed, 1 phone call taking care of an issue with a live classroom capture technology and finally a call about an upcoming video conference.


Next was a video conference between UNI, Moscow Russia, and St Petersburg Russia. This was the first day of a Tuesday/Thursday class that the sites in Russia came in as their semester starts later than ours. The time difference is 9 hours with the time with our participants in Russia starting at 6:30 pm and our time 9:30 am. We are using Polycom VSX 7000’s and a RMX 2000 Polycom video bridge for this connection with IP/Internet being the transport. We are also recording this class live and streaming it on the web live as well as recording it for on demand viewing for a later time using the Accordent Capture station in tandem with our current web server and Helix streaming server. The class meets outside of class time using WebCT/Blackboard system that we have on campus. By the way, really thankful for a great group in our network services division making sure we have adequate bandwidth on and off campus to make this possible.


Next, during the same time as the conference in Russia, another staff member was bringing in a faculty member from the east coast in to her class at UNI. The professor had to leave due to a family emergency but was continuing to teach her class from the east coast. We worked with the professor using a webinar product called Adobe Connect.  We brought over a laptop, Sony DV Camera (used firewire), and a Polycom Communicator (for audio) and hooked it in to the multimedia classroom. The faculty member was able to listen to her student do their presentation, watch the presentation via desktop sharing and interact with her class via audio over the Internet while she was located at a hospital on the east coast. The presentation was also recorded live and made available on demand for further review at a later date using the record option in Adobe Connect. This will occur again on Thursday. In the past, the same hospital has allowed us to use their Polycom technology but it did not work this time.


Next, after the Russia / UNI connection, we brought in another faculty member to teach from the West Coast. We used Polycom PVX desktop video conferencing software (moving towards the CMA software in the near future) for the faculty member on the west coast and the Polycom VSX 7000 system in the same room as the UNI / Russia course was previously in. They are then using WebCT/Blackboard to hand in assignments, take tests, and interact outside of face to face course.


Next, I tag teamed with the staff member monitoring the class with the professor on the east coast as she has 2 classes today and 3 she will do on Thursday. Class just finished up. Tear down and off to the office to finish building out another digital signage player, answering about 8, no make that 9 calls this morning, a host of email and look at some tweaking needing to be accomplished on a media delivery system.


That is my time, fun to hear what the rest of the team has been working on too today. … yesterday included having a projector screen fall completely out of its mount :-). Fun!

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