Table of Contents Technology ShowcaseBuilding an Engaging Online Student UnionTechnology Showcase: Implications of the Internet of Things (IoT)Technology Showcase: The Natural Limitations of Technology: 4K TVsTechnology Showcase: Students Organize HackathonsTechnology Showcase: LEDs EvolveTechnology Showcase: Beyond Facebook: Social Media 2.0Technology Showcase: The Potential of Virtual Reality GamesTechnology Showcase: What Event Planners Need to Know About WiFiTechnology Showcase: 10 Pro Tips for Using Microsoft WordTechnology Showcase: It's Just a Video in PowerPoint–What Could Go Wrong?Technology Showcase: Competitive Presenting with PowerPoint RouletteTechnology Showcase: Adjusting Procedures to Provide Better A/V SupportTechnology Showcase: Tracking A/V Inventory in DEA EMSTechnology Showcase: Applying Innovative, Inexpensive Technology in a Theatre SpaceTechnology Showcase: Raspberry Jammin'Technology Showcase: Road Test: Apps for NotetakingTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Student Employee Scheduling ProgramsTechnology Showcase: Road Test: Project Management Software10 of the Top Commons Posts of 20152015 Education and Research Fund DonorsNeeds Assessment Identifies Strengths, Room for GrowthCAS Provides Better Tools for Relevant Functional AreasNew Team Provides Educational Tools, Discussion Opportunities Related to Campus ViolenceVolunteerism In the AssociationFrom the President: Who was Your First?From the Chief Executive Officer: Promoting Dialogue About Campus ShootingsMarch/April 2016 KioskOn the JobUnion Spotlight: Linda E. McMahon Commons at Sacred Heart UniversityUnion Spotlight: Andorfer Commons at the Indiana Institute of Technology
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THE
BULLETIN
Volume 84 | Issue 2
March/April 2016

Technology Showcase: Adjusting Procedures to Provide Better A/V Support

Jim Wheeler, Audio-Visual Manager, University of Connecticut

Providing audio/visual support in an ever-growing world of technology is quite challenging, and the world of higher education is no exception. We have a widely diverse customer base, comprised of students and departments, each having their own challenges. Both adhere to a different technological standard, and both grow at vastly different rates. Their event needs vary just as greatly. A student group might need just a laptop and projector for a weekly meeting in a conference room. A student affairs department might be hosting a banquet in the ballroom with entertainment. An academic department could be streaming a panel discussion among professors in the theater. To top it off, we likely did not possess the full details for any of these events 2–3 weeks ago.

I’m sure many schools face similar obstacles. Here at the University of Connecticut, we strive to come up with innovative and budget-friendly ways to address some of the more common issues for our different types of customers.

Departments

We share a lot of common ground with departments. For starters, we’re both in the same funding boat. This means their technology upgrades are at relatively the same pace as ours. Being able to grow at their speed means we’re able to provide a more stable level of support. But it’s not without its hurdles. Because it’s easier and cheaper, departments who are putting on a presentation tend to bring their own laptop. It has all the files they need, they’re already familiar with using it, and they have more control over it.

Ironically though, that’s the problem. We don’t have control over their equipment. An outdated video driver, customized program settings, or just a bad graphics card will all cause display issues with their presentation. They also rarely understand the problem resides with their equipment in the first place (and we’re not about to argue with them!). After all, the computer is apparently working fine—the problem they’re seeing is on the projection. Adding to this, even if we know what’s wrong with their laptop, for privacy reasons, we aren’t authorized to handle it. It’s the perfect storm of stress for customers, and particularly for customers who already have an aversion to technology in the first place.

We address this on several fronts. First, if we know a customer is bringing their own laptop, we provide them with a settings guide in their reservation confirmation sheet. This way they have it and our student technician working the event has it as well. The guide explains how to adjust the settings on their computers to be the most compatible with our equipment.

Second, we try to have one of our laptops on standby. Laptops we manage receive routine maintenance and are tested weekly to ensure they work with all our equipment. Again, because most customers prefer to bring their own laptops, they tend to opt out of renting ours. However, when compatibility issues arise with no time to tweak settings, this is the next best solution.

Lastly, when the budget allows, we have focused upgrades on purchasing equipment that minimizes compatibility issues. These equipment upgrades are the subject of another segment.

Student Organizations

Student organizations are great customers; they’re often easy-going and flexible. Most students grew up surrounded by technology and lack any aversion to incorporating it in their programs. They need little instruction, and usually are able to diagnose and fix their own problems before a technician can even get to them for assistance. Our challenge with student organizations has been keeping up with their technology growth, particularly Apple products.

Apple is obviously very popular. They provide stable, reliable, and user-friendly products. They meet a growing demand of people who want to use technology without having to learn how it works to use it. The problem lies in Apple electing to offer standard features in a proprietary form. For example, if a customer wants to connect their non-Apple device to an external display, we give them a VGA or HDMI cable, and that’s it. If a customer wants to connect a MacBook to an external display, they need an adapter—DisplayPort, Mini-DisplayPort, Micro-DVI, Mini-DVI, Thunderbolt, Lighting, etc.—depending on the generation of MacBook they’re using. An even bigger upcoming problem will be the iPhone 7, in which Apple has decided to remove the headphone jack and rely solely on its Lighting cable to transmit sound.

This perfectly highlights the problem. We have invested in solutions based on certain technology standards, to which Apple doesn’t conform. For a time, we did try to provide all the necessary adapters to our customers using Apple. However, they were highly unreliable.

We are now exploring two solutions, which are working very well. For audio, we invested in short-range Bluetooth transmitter/receiver kits. These kits bypass any proprietary features and rely on a feature users’ demand, but Apple doesn’t control. This has been a particularly successful solution for dance groups, who often have multiple members in one group using different smart devices to play different songs.

For video, we noticed the failure rate for Mac adapters was highest when trying to convert from digital to analog. Our building was designed to be all VGA (digital was still in its infancy). The problem wasn’t that students didn’t own adapters; they just didn’t own adapters that worked with analog. To reconcile this, we opted to upgrade a small number of meeting spaces by replacing projectors with 65" LED monitors. This has been a huge success on multiple levels. New monitors have both digital and analog inputs, so the adapters that Mac users already own work perfectly, and analog devices are still compatible. But it also opens up the opportunity for us to explore devices that transmit audio and video wirelessly, which would be the ideal solution.

These simple changes have enabled our staff to vastly reduce the time spent trying to troubleshoot equipment and adaptors, so they can better serve departments and student organizations.