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Proposal for Technology Replacement and Functional Enhancements to Educational Technology Services Online Studio Classroom

Submitted by: Jeff Toorongian/EDTECH501_4173 Date: November 16, 2009 Audience: This proposal will be presented to the Director of Educational Technology Services/Online Learning and the Chief Information Officer of the university.

Introduction
Michigan Tech's mission is to prepare students to create the future. Educating these students, whether on-campus or online, requires a robust and evolving suite of supportive educational technologies. We have recently observed a strong growth in demand, via online learning, for the highly technical science and engineering knowledge that our institution is known for. Additional online training and degree programs are being developed, often for outside agencies. High quality online educational content helps enhance the university's reputation for excellence. Modern production facilities and other high-tech classrooms are where much of this online content is produced. It is vital that these facilities are kept reliable, and fully capable of supporting the latest online teaching pedagogies. This proposal will review the current status of one of our department's key production facilities; it's limitations, and the goal of retooling its key technological capabilities.

Goals and Technology Vision


Demand for well-educated students in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) is increasing worldwide. Effectively educating students in these fields, both on campus and online, requires advanced educational technology facilities and support. These students have an expectation of educational content being available online, much like their social and entertainment content is. Meeting these expectations requires consistent investments in the campus educational technology infrastructure and the staff that supports it. If the goal is a well-educated student, ready to contribute to society, supporting this backbone of teaching and learning with technology is imperative. Many of our current online courses that require a full-featured lecture component utilize one of our online studios. The first modern online studio classroom on campus, located in our Electrical Engineering Resource Center (EERC) building, is in need of a major overhaul. Phase one of this project was completed in the summer of 2008. It involved a modernization to the classroom space, including new wall treatments, carpeting, furniture, rear-projection screens, and replacement of the television lighting/dimmer systems. We are now in a position to engage the second phase of the project during the summer of 2010. This phase will involve the complete overhaul of the production electronics and signal path infrastructure primarily within the studio control room. Upon completion of this phase the studio will offer core production recording technology coupled with live videoconferencing capability, and live or on demand audio/video streaming functionality. These enhancements will allow us to improve the technical quality and

increase the production capacity of the online educational content we provide to our students. Additionally, it will help expand the reach of a Michigan Tech education to a wider audience.

Current Technology and Resources


The EERC-based online studio was originally constructed in 1992. A significant technology update was undertaken in 2003, with other minor updates and equipment replacements throughout the 18 years of operation as needed. Baseline technology (primarily control room based) is highlighted below and indicates the major functional items in the production workflow. Supporting equipment and infrastructure is not listed but assumed. Sony 2/3"CCD cameras, Fujinon lenses (4) Telemetrics RS-422 remote pan/tilt camera mounts (3) Videotek Prodigy 10-input analog composite video switcher Soundcraft 16-input audio mixer Telex VHF wireless transmitters/receivers, w/lavaliere microphones (4) Ceiling mounted boundary microphones for student audio (2) Macintosh-based Digital Voodoo graphics board for key graphics Sony DVD recorders (2) Panasonic S-VHS videotape recorder Mediasite (Sonic Foundry) rack-mount recording appliance Digital Rapids encoding hardware PC workstations (2) Production monitors for program/preview/troubleshooting display (3) Additional monitors for camera confidence display and record outputs Tektronix waveform and vector scope displays for signal testing/troubleshooting Leitch frame synchronizers and time-base correctors for program playback Extron video scaler for instructor document camera input into Mediasite recorder Communication Specialties scan converter for computer display conversion to SD-video standard (480i) ESE master/slave time displays Polycom VS4000, H.323, IP-based videoconferencing hardware The equipment noted above and the associated support technology is fully operational during this 2009-'10 academic year. Although in service, many individual components have exceeded their expected service lives. Continued operation of older equipment can require more frequent maintenance and associated expenses. Risk of a failure to a critical component increases with time. Such a failure can take the studio operations offline until repairs are completed. Tight production schedules and limited support staff make such downtime unacceptable. Maintenance and repairs of studio technology are currently done only when required. Standard equipment replacement cycles have ceased in the last several years in preparation for the planned overhaul. It's expected that some existing components will be available for reuse in the upgraded facility. Specifically, the Sony cameras and Telemetrics pan/tilt mounts are six years old and could see continued use if budget limitations require it. While this will reduce equipment expenses, it will also delay the planned migration to the 16:9 widescreen video format. Design specifications for the new control room will require

an option to implement this camera reuse scenario, but will also require new equipment to be 16:9 format ready in preparation for future camera replacements as budgets allow. One primary media specialist and several hourly student employees operate the EERC online studio. Technical staff in the department is available for minor support issues. Major technical problems usually require defective equipment to be sent off site for repair. Staff training for new studio technology will be specified in the proposed budget. Once primary staff is trained, they will serve as the trainer for additional staff and students. The media specialist or instructional technologist, as appropriate, will provide training for instructor-based technology used in the classroom. Additional support can also be provided to help instructors align their course pedagogy to capitalize on the advanced technology available to them.

Technology Needs and Solutions


Equipment and Functionality Technology requirements for this studio upgrade are based on the goal of producing value-added educational content to a broad online audience-beyond the borders of our campus. We envision content produced in this newly upgraded facility being delivered to students from across the country and abroad. The online content will take many forms, including training, seminars, short courses, full-production lectures, and live webinars or conferences with remote collaborators. Other uses will include high visibility campus events including university senate meetings, high-level administrator communications, and public seminars for various position candidates. All of these uses will require higher production values than baseline lecture capture technology currently available in other shared campus classroom locations. The online studio provides a unique dual-function role of recording high quality lectures for online students and also providing a high-tech classroom environment for both the instructor and local students who are often, but not always, a part of studio-based classes. Depending on course content, online simulations, live demonstrations, and other engaging teaching techniques can be recorded for online viewers and delivered effectively for the local students. A minimum of four remote controlled 16:9 format cameras will be available. An SDI/HD-SDI based signal path will be maintained for all video sources. A minimum 16input stereo/mono soundboard accepting both line level and mic level sources will be installed. A UHF shielded wireless microphone system will provide the main audio sources in the studio classroom. The studio will support projection and stylus annotation of PowerPoint or document camera visuals and tablet-based computers. Record and playback of audio/video to/from Blu-ray, DVD, VHS tape, or computer via streaming (playback only) will be standard functionality. Personal response systems (Clickers) will also be easily integrated for all studio participants. The primary delivery method for online content is on-demand video streaming. Currently we stream in the Real video format through our Helix server, and via Mediasite rich-media streaming with Silverlight technology. Additional content can be posted on the Michigan Tech iTunes U site for download. The upgraded studio will feature real-time encoding capability in these and other formats as needed. Though not currently required for most online courses, the capability to stream live will be also be available.

Further versatility in studio usage will be available with computer desktop screen recording capability with either Camtasia or a similar recording software application. Instructors will be able to record software demonstrations, narrated PowerPoint lectures, or other instructional content that requires intensive computer use or display capability. They will be able to post this recorded content in their Blackboard course as supplemental material. By utilizing studio-based video and audio sources, a higher quality finished product will be attained than a standard webcam can offer. Additional functionality planned in the upgrade will allow for the use of web-based conferencing tools. Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro is the currently supported tool in this technology space. Full integration of studio-based video and audio sources both in and out of Connect Pro will provide a seamless connection between local and remote participants. H.323-based IP videoconferencing technology, like that provided for many years through traditional endpoint devices from vendors such as Polycom, Lifesize, and Tandberg, will be included. These products offer higher quality videoconferencing experiences, often with HD quality video. They are also evolving new technology termed telepresence. Use of this higher-end videoconferencing technology with higher quality video and larger displays can help give viewers the sense that a remote participant is truly local. By removing the sense of separation between conference participants a more interactive and fully immersed experience can be offered. This level of videoconferencing technology will not likely be feasible in this upgrade project, but system design can include allowances for it in the future. Studio control operators will have fully automated control of the production technology reviewed here through a Crestron-based touch panel interface. Most commonly used processes will be accessible through shortcut buttons on the touch panel. Unique recording requirements will be attainable through customized interface controls. Switching between standard lecture recording mode and live videoconferencing mode will now be virtually instantaneous via this automated control interface. Acquisition and Implementation A project description document, detailing the information outlined here, will be developed. It will discuss the renovation effort from design of new system, removal of existing equipment, installation and testing of the new technology, and the training of frontline Educational Technology Services personnel. We will also include a separate line item in the request for open-ended service for both the equipment (beyond its standard warranty) and for Crestron automation code bug fixes, updates, and enhancements. Typically this will be in the form of a specified block of time to be used as needed for these services. This block of service time will be in addition to the standard vendor warranty period for the entire system and also for planned site visits during the first approximately 18 months of use. This document, combined with an estimated budget and timeline will compose a formal request for proposal. The document will be sent to a/v technology integrators that we have good working relationships with from past efforts. Other providers may also be included as appropriate. Site visits will be scheduled for interested vendors who will then be expected to submit design and budget proposals for the project. Ideally, we will have bids from vendors who understand our university and, specifically, understand how we use technology for teaching and learning. Based on the timeline agreed upon the project will proceed through the training phase and the final online status on the facility. The project completion goal is the summer of 2010 with the facility ready for use in the Fall 2010 semester.

Since this project is an upgrade to an existing facility, it's expected that no additional FTE staff will be required. Regular operational reviews will determine the need for any staff changes or enhancements in the future.

Timeline
The proposed dates below are recommended to allow for standard administrative processing. Dates indicated have some flexibility, but general adherence to the proposed timeline should allow for project completion by the target date of August 16, 2010 (Actual completion date in table allows up to one month for unforeseen delays with equipment availability, scheduling conflicts, and other issues which inherently delay typical technology projects.) Tasks shown are major milestone activities. Minor project events are not shown for purposes brevity.

Date December 18, 2009

Task Project Description (PD) document completed and submitted to director for comments. PD comments received and document updated/finalized. Target project budget range identified (internal ETS discussion) Request for Proposals (RFP) draft submitted for comments. RFP comments received and document updated/finalized. RFP transmitted to selected a/v systems integrators. Deadline for receiving proposals Proposals reviewed, vendor selected Project design specifications reviewed, equipment list reviewed, changes incorporated. Installation begins System test/punch list created Vendor training to department staff Punch list items completed/system completion/final approval

January 15, 2010 January 15, 2010 February 5, 2010 February 12, 2010 February 26, 2010 April 2, 2010 April 16, 2010 April 30, 2010

June 14, 2010 June 28, 2010 June 30, 2010 July 16, 2010

Budget
Due to the scope of the technology upgrades and enhancements reviewed here the project will need to be sent out for bids. Specific manufacturers and equipment model numbers are not identified since each bidding vendor can design a system with their specific technology choices. Subsequent designs and requisite budget figures drawn from each vendor's proposal will be reviewed in the process of selecting the project awardee. The project will be primarily funded with internally generated resources, though some in-kind support will be encouraged due to the importance of the project to university strategic goals. Although primarily internally funded, the Director of Educational Technology Services and the university Chief Information Officer must still receive the proposal favorably, before the use of funds can be approved. There will be a budget ceiling that all bids must not exceed. Creativity in designing a scalable system that can be modified in modular sections while retaining remaining core functionality will be received more favorably than a proposal that simply adds equipment until a maximum dollar figure is reached. The budget figures below are estimates for the various components of the project. The maximum budget figure is also indicated.

Project Component
System design Current equipment removal New equipment Professional installation/ design/programming services Training/documentation Reserve service time blocks (for future code updates and system modifications) Maximum Project Budget

Budget Estimate ($)


$15,000 $3,000 $135,000 $40,000 $2,000 $5,000

$200,000