I sat down with Lee Hoffmann, supervisor of our Audio Visual department, to talk about the AV profile and plan for Palomar College over the next several years. I am part of a small committee responsible for writing a new technology master plan for the campus, and we are in the information gathering phase of our project. Lee’s input, then, is critical. When you ask professors about classroom technology, the first thing they mention is “the projector.” In informal surveys when we have asked professors attending our semester orientations if they use a digital projector to teach, we can clearly see that usage has risen dramatically.
Our interview ran to over an hour, so I broke it into 2 parts for easier consumption. In part 1 (this post) I summarize Lee’s responses to a set of 9 standard questions we are asking everyone on campus, and then, in part 2 (the next post), his response to some specialized questions related specifically to various AV technologies. Below each section I include the audio of our Q&A session–yes,we recorded it,both being AV fans. It may not be the most thrilling interview ever conducted (!), but in the interest of accuracy and completeness–not to use that overused term “transparency”–why not? In the text below I am not quoting Lee’s exact words, but summarizing his responses (and any of my amendments and comments). Listen to the audio for our exact words.
Question 1: If funding did not matter, what technology improvements would you like to see in the Technology Master Plan?
Answer: All classrooms should have a computer, digital projector, speakers, large screen TV, and optional document camera.
Q: How close are we to that?
A: We are about 70% there–we have about 250 digital projectors in place–but of that 70%, 45% is equipment that is four years old or older. We buy digital projectors in clumps, say 25 or 30 at a time, which means that 25-30 at a time will become obsolete, but have no plan in place to fund their replacement.
Q: Is there a budget in place to fund projector and lamp acquisition?
A: No. Our greatest need is to create a regularized line-item budget. Projectors will become obsolete and lamps will burn out on a predictable schedule, but we do not have a budget mechanism in place for continuing their use. It is always special-case funding.
Question 2: What does access to technology mean to you?
Answer: The professor who wants to use AV technology to teach should have it. Secondly, it means we ought to have centralized control of AV assets in place, so that they can be managed over the network from a centralized operation. The prime example is turning off projectors that are left on when classes end, sometimes even over the weekend. To replace a digital projector lamp costs about $300. If they are left burning over weekends, it significantly shortens useful lamp life and therefore reduces return on investment for the District. It only makes sense to install a centralized control system
Q: What system do you like?
A: Extron. It means that you have to purchase more costly equipment, but it works better.
Q: What about legacy equipment that cannot be networked?
A: You can buy an adapter for about $110 that will make older serial-based equipment net-workable.
Question 3: How should technology requests be evaluated?
Answer: AV requests (i.e., requests to purchase AV equipment) is centralized. The AV department–meaning Lee–has to sign-off on each AV purchase, and is responsible for researching and adding to orders additional equipment needed to make it work on campus.
Question 4: Are there technologies that you know of that Palomar does not provide?
Answer: Document cameras, tablet PCs, these could be used by selected instructors.
Question 5: What benefits would you expect to see from the use of technology?
Answer: Some students can learn better visually. The use of AV is critical.
Question 6: How can the experience of incorporating new technology in the Palomar workplace be improved?
Answer: With respect to AV, develop a method of scheduling the correct professors in the rooms with the correct equipment. With respect to committees, laptop and projectors should be available.
Question 7: What concerns do you have in ragrds to data security?
Answer: Not data security, but equipment security. We need card system in place with electronic locks on the classroom doors, and a system that will inform our police department when a digital projector has been disconnected in a classroom. The Extron system could do that.
Q: Are many projectors stolen from classrooms?
A: Not lately, but some time back about 10 were stolen in a short time span. We only find out about it later.
Question 8: What is the primary reason to replace or update existing technology?
Answer: A projector’s life span is about 3 years, so obsolescence is reason 1. Second, technology improves. Five years ago I could buy a 1500 lumen projector for about $3,000.00, now I can get a 3000 lumen projector for around $800.
Question 9: Any additional comments related to technology at Palomar College?
Answer: Yes. First, we need to have a commitment in place to the technology we have adopted, a plan to refresh/replace it on a scheduled basis. Second, the off-campus sites (Palomar has several Education Centers throughout the county in addition to the main campus in San Marcos) need to be equipped equally with the main campus. They are sometimes shorted on resources and support. Third, we need an AV support person to rotate among the various non-San Marcos locations.
Here is the audio of our interview. Play time = 32:25.