The University of Montana

The seven year switch

In Academic, Innovation, Projects on February 24, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Note: This is one of three articles in the February special edition of IT’s Bits newsletter.

UM classrooms to get high-tech makeover 

Garry Kerr describes himself as a stone and chisel guy . . . who loves technology.

Kerr, a UM Anthropology professor, says the nearly 1,000 students he teaches each semester benefit greatly from his ability to show details of relics using a high-tech camera and projector.

“It makes a huge difference,” Kerr says. “It makes my job a lot easier when a student can see an article and feel it with their eyes. That will stick in their minds forever.”

Today, only 26 of UM’s 156 general-purpose classrooms have the technology Kerr and his students desire. But that will change.

A seven-year plan calls for installing or upgrading technology in 22 classrooms per year. That will take the percentage of high-tech classrooms from today’s 17 percent to 95-plus percent. About $200,000 a year will be spent on the installations, with an increasing amount invested each year in maintenance, equipment replacement and other support costs.

The plan emerged from the Academic IT Advisory Committee and was championed by Provost Royce Engstrom and Registrar David Micus.

“For the first time, we have alignment between the Provost, the Registrar and Information Technology on classroom technology,” says Loey Knapp, assistant CIO for Technology Support Services. “It took the sponsorship of the Provost and the Registrar to make it happen.”

It also took some help from Administration & Finance, who worked out the funding model for the project. Multiple sources of funding contribute to the $475,000 annual investment according to Rosi Keller, Associate Vice President for A&F. Keller says no current services are impacted by the commitment to classroom technology.An oversight committee will determine priorities for classroom upgrades and approve the standard equipment that will go into the rooms.

Randy Gottfried, manager of IT’s Presentation Technology Services, says that standardization will allow for discounts on equipment, make maintenance and support affordable, and end-user training much easier.

“There will be some leeway on add-ons and upgrades as long as they’re compatible with the standard package,” Gottfried says. “But the big thing is, there will be consistency for a professor using different classrooms to teach.”

“Students expect it,” Kerr says of technology in the classroom. “It’s worth its weight in gold. I think this is one of the best investments this campus has ever decided to make.”

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