More than 60 FHSU classrooms receive advances in learning technology

After years of work, all general use classrooms -- more than 60 -- on the Fort Hays State University campus are now equipped with a variety of instructional audio and visual media of the latest technology.

The mediated classroom project, which started in the early '90s with the first four classroom mediations, concluded with the last general purpose room going online on Aug. 27.

"[The project] wasn't universally accepted at first," said Jack Jackson, mediated classroom coordinator, "but many of the faculty took to the idea quickly. It got to the point where some of the faculty were willing to go anywhere on campus for a mediated classroom."

Originally, said Jackson, only a few rooms were going to be mediated. Teacher and student acceptance drove it to the current number.

"This number does not include a significant number of labs with limited mediation," said Jackson. "I would estimate there are about 25 more of these."

When the "Crumbling Classroom Act" was passed by the Kansas Legislature, FHSU received money for renovations and some of the money was given to the mediation project.

Workers from FHSU's Physical Plant remodeled the classrooms. The renovation included installing new carpet, new ceilings, and an acoustic treatment on the walls.

In addition to transforming the existing rooms, two rooms were constructed in McCartney Hall.

Jackson and his assistant, Odus Trober, took care of the electronic overhaul. All of the rooms in the project have been updated with ceiling mounted LCD projectors, new computers, VCRs, and document cameras.

Some rooms have a second computer, a slide projector, an audio cassette deck, and a laser disc player. The most recent rooms, about one third, have a DVD player in the computer as well.

The labs with limited mediation typically have a computer and projector or a computer, document camera, and projector. There are also specialized rooms that contain equipment geared specifically towards one area of study. One such room is Malloy Hall, room 212, which is mainly used for music classes. This room features a new, high quality surround-sound system.

All of the rooms are connected to the Internet and the campus server. An extensive set of switches controls all of the equipment in each room.
"[The mediation is] instantly available to the instructor to enhance the learning experience," said Jackson.

A media check out system is available to instructors if their room does not contain the equipment they desire to use. All the rooms are wired for the use of the additional equipment; instructors merely have to plug it in.

Jackson offered familiarization training for faculty in August to give them hands-on practice with the new technology. Sessions will be offered every semester and additional sessions will be offered as needed.

Each mediated classroom has a telephone so instructors can call for help.

"I estimate we can answer 80 to 90 percent of the questions that arise during a class, via telephone," said Jackson. "If we can't, we can usually be at any classroom on campus within five minutes."

According to Jackson, the project isn't really finished.

"We have already updated earlier rooms and we will continue to do so," he said.

A touch-panel control system is currently being installed. This system will make it easier to use the equipment and will also extend the life of the equipment because of an energy saving feature.

"[This type of mediation] allows instructors to plan a variety of media and integrate it into their lectures," said Jackson, "rather than plan around the available media."

"I think it is almost mandatory in today's visually oriented society," said Jackson. "We can essentially utilize all of the senses to learn."

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