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AV in a Box – The Sub $25K Classroom

By: Richard Mitchell

As the expectations of classroom and meeting space AV changes over time, so too must the approach of delivering advanced AV systems for teaching and learning environments.

The Sanford School of Public Policy (SSPP), in collaboration with Duke Office of Information Technology (OIT) and Trinity Technology Services (TTS), was able to take a tentative list of desired outcomes for a scheduled AV update to four classrooms, and translate that into a cost-effective and robust classroom AV design. The process started with the Sanford School approaching my group (Media Technologies) at OIT and informing us that they were looking to upgrade a few classroom environments and if we could provide some general guidance to ensure they were maximizing their available funds. Based on the initial wants and needs assessment, OIT sketched a base AV design and reviewed the design with TTS to ensure the feasibility of the design and to obtain pricing. From that point, TTS finalized the design with a few minor modifications and provided pricing. Ultimately, TTS was selected as the AV integrator due to their cost-effective pricing and solid track record (roughly a 35%+ cost savings).

About the spaces:

  • Laser Projectors (5,000 lumens at 1920×1080, rated for 20,000 hours – no bulb replacements!)
  • Front and Back Cameras (no pan or tilt)
  • Built-in VoIP Calling
  • Integrated Lecture Capture (Panopto)
  • 7″ Touch Panel for Control
  • AV Bridge Standard (for WebEx, Skype, Google Hangout, YouTube, Facebook, etc.)

The system recycled the previous AV rack, speakers, and projector mount, so this was far from new construction. The Sanford School of Public Policy has indicated that they had a very smooth install, and minor issues since install ~4 months ago. So, it survived a full semester.

The pros and cons of such a system are difficult to quantify, but I’ll give it a shot.

  • significant reduction in overall cost (~35%)
  • simplified install (TTS has a¬†robust understanding Duke’s network, VoIP systems, scheduling, etc. and it really helps)
  • good support, especially if you have tier one local support.
  • a unified graphical user interface (faculty moving from one of the 170+ TTS room to a Sanford School of Public Policy room will experience a similar user interface)
  • they understand the unique AV needs of an academic teaching environment.
  • did I mention the price?

Equally difficult would be to list the cons of using TTS. Instead of listing cons, I’ll list a few considerations when working with TTS.

  • TTS may not be an ideal fit for advanced rooms (“Advanced” is a relative term… they have done some impressively complex work and they continue to surprise, but there is a limit).
  • TTS may not be the perfect fit for new construction (Have they done new construction? Yes! Can they do all new construction? Probably not.)
  • There are limitations to their programming (TTS has a range of solid classroom designs, good programmers, and a dedication to clean design, but it’s best to “borrow” their best designs vs. reinventing the wheel.)

This was a wonderful project, and I look forward to reviewing this project in a few years to see how happy the Sanford School of Public Policy is with the overall project. Only time will tell.


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