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Creating Solutions: UT Tyler's Interactive Technology Takes Distance Learning to Next Level

July 6, 2007

Denise Duncan and Kyle Stewart in the system operations room

The University of Texas at Tyler educational technology services department is bridging the technology gap in university classroom settings and providing a convenient, affordable option for students at UT Tyler’s campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

UT Tyler offers a variety of distance learning courses through an interactive television netork. The use of classroom technology and video conferencing also serves faculty, students and staff.

Interactive Television

Thirty interactive video classrooms comprise the UT Tyler ITV network. Panoramic cameras, large television monitors, projectors and sensitive sound equipment allow complete communication between each location.

"It's a network where video and audo come together," said Kyle Stewart, educational technology services manager. "We take the AV compoents, digitize the video and audio information, send it over phone lines to another site, and then the information is returned through similar components.

“Communication has to be 100 percent all the time, that’s our goal. You always have bumps in the road with technology, but we strive to provide students, faculty and staff the best ITV quality and service as possible,” Stewart added.

Technology advancements have made everything more simplified and easier to use in the ITV classrooms since UT Tyler began using ITV in 1992, according to Denise Duncan, UT Tyler telecommunications systems specialist.

“The majority of our classrooms have been upgraded with our standard technology now. It can turn the VCR, DVD player, projector, screen and document camera on – the only thing it can’t do is turn the computer on,” said Duncan.

Flexibility was a main objective in creating the ITV classrooms at UT Tyler’s campuses in Palestine and Longview, Stewart explains.

“It saves students money and time,” Stewart said. “They can attend classes in their own community. We offer courses to the community and students who otherwise couldn’t come to Tyler. It provides nearly the same classroom experience as a regular classroom setting. With this equipment you have live, face-to-face video and audio interaction, but you’re not on campus.”

The technology also makes administrative meetings more cost effective.

“In that arena it works out great,” Stewart added. “Any of the 15 components of the UT System can come together for meetings. UT Tyler offer regularly scheduled video conference meetings so faculty and staff don’t have to travel great distances.”

Remote diagnostics and control additions have helped tremendously concerning proximity Stewart explained.

“We installed Web cams for a visual in all the rooms,” Stewart said. “We installed remote diagnostics and remote control since we’re spread out so far, in a small department here on the main campus. This is where it comes together. One person can have all this technology at one central location.”

“With networking, one computer can see in any classroom in real time. We can check anything, and it saves a whole lot of time,” Duncan added.

Classroom technology

In 2004, the ETS began installation of standardized technology classrooms that have benefited the campus greatly.

Educational Technology Services is committed to providing faculty with state of the art technology in every classroom. The current 29 technology classrooms consist of a teaching console, computer, laptop connection, document camera, LCD projector, a VCR/DVD combo and an AMX or Crestron control system with touch panel screen.

With a touch of a button, faculty can easily switch between sources providing students with uninterrupted presentations as well as students having the ability to utilize the technology for their own benefit during classes. Every room is uniform and operates the same. Through Web control, support staff can easily isolate technical problems and many times correct problems before they occur.

Looking ahead

“We are at the top of technology as it relates to classroom integration,” Stewart said. “There are new technologies in video conferencing like high definition that offers better video and audio resolutions. That is a goal we’re planning for in the future.

Beginning fall this year, Stewart said faculty using technology classrooms will have the ability to alert support personnel by accessing a help menu on the touch panel and selecting a problem category. Once selected, an e-mail will be sent to support staff to assist the faculty without interrupting lectures.

“We’re also beginning to install new control systems, Crestron, which will allow us to do the same thing as our AMX control systems, but there’s also software we will be using called RoomView. RoomView will allow us to network technology classrooms together, show them on one menu and look for any problems. We would know a little bit ahead of time if there’s a problem with a room. We’ll start work on that this summer, Duncan said.
“It’s about introducing technology in every classroom and making it easier for faculty, staff and students to use."

Duncan said by fall 2007, there will be seven new technology classrooms installed in the fourth floor of the north building of the Bill Ratliff Engineering and Science Complex. By spring 2008, there will be four new technology classrooms in the RBN’s third floor, with one being a 90-seat ITV lecture hall. In total, the RBN will have 24 new technology classrooms when completed.

By introducing new technology, UT Tyler will hold the opportunity to collaborate more effectively with not only its Longview and Palestine students and UT System components, but also other institutions throughout East Texas as well.

“This kind of planning will be key to the success of UT Tyler’s distance-learning program for the near future,” Stewart added.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. More than 70 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of nearly 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.

Hannah Buchanan
The University of Texas at Tyler
Office of News and Information
Admin 372 3900 University Blvd.
Tyler, Tx 75799

Ph: 903.566.7000
Fx: 903.566.7061

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