Sept. 20, 2021 - When we think about AV technology on campus, we assume it’s only for learning space use cases: classrooms; huddle spaces; active learning spaces; medical, engineering, and robotic simulation labs; and hybrid classrooms. The reality is learning spaces are only the beginning for these virtually self-contained communities.
Today, AV technology is being deployed in so many new types of spaces it feels like the college campus is a microcity. Most, if not all, are integral parts of campus life.
Event centers, conference facilities, student unions, and ballrooms often serve as multipurpose spaces in which smaller divisible rooms and their AV technology can be used separately or combined. Partition sensors can trigger important automated actions such as showing content across multiple displays vs. each space having its individual content, thereby simplifying the user experience for non-technical staff. Scheduling touch screens have become a mainstream way to inform students, event attendees, and staff about availability and usage of revenue-generating spaces.
AV technology is now commonly deployed across campus stadiums and arenas, in coaching staff offices or coach/player meeting rooms, workout rooms, fitness centers, and lounges/locker rooms. I’ve seen video walls in club-level viewing areas, touch screens in stadium suites, and Crestron Flex video conferencing technology in offices and innovative new spaces designed to draw recruits. Player lounges, where student-athletes study or just hang out between practices and games, typically include laptops, gaming consoles, tablets, or other devices to be plugged into one or two wall plates along with audio support, control, and switching. Fitness centers and workout rooms host yoga classes, spin classes, and instructor-led group fitness classes. In these spaces, wireless keypads are used together with wired audio inputs to stream music or audio to the room through the amp and speakers.
Another area of campus sports, eSports, is booming, with more than $1 billion invested right now and projected to double in just a few years. In new eSports labs, Crestron provides an AV-over-IP backbone for a lag-free gaming experience – a hard requirement, whether it’s for practice or competition. One eSports venue in Texas even has an 85-ft. long LED board, video wall, complete audio system, switching/routing for players’ game play and control. As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas!
A few years ago, I started hearing new word mashups such as “cafetorium,” “digitorium,” and others to describe mixed-use spaces. These flexible or common spaces where students eat, study, and gather (sometimes a food court) can be quickly converted for events, panel discussions, or town hall-type meetings. They tend to have multiple displays, one to two areas for wired or wireless presentation, mics, and sound reinforcement, along with control to help everyday users easily reconfigure the area. Similar use cases and AV requirements can be found in quads and outdoor amphitheaters. What's most important is that these environments can be quickly reconfigured and are flexible to support changing needs.
If you’re more than 30 years old, you probably remember the college bookstore. Certainly, they haven’t disappeared; however, they go by newer terms now, such “campus store” and “marketplace.” Today, you’re likely to find them filled with a lot more than books. You’ll find digital devices, branded clothing, and other merchandise, along with study areas and cafés. With regards to technology, you’ll find kiosks, digital signage, transparent LCD screens, and digital glass. These types of environments require sources and displays that are easy to control, simple to manage, and flexible.
Operations Centers and Campus Safety
Between keeping students safe, managing traffic flow during sports and special events, and being prepared to provide warnings about severe weather or other threats, these campus nerve centers require complex AV solutions. Some institutions have sophisticated video walls, audio, and control systems that integrate with Crestron AV monitoring software capable of powering up and pushing important messages to classroom projectors across campus. Several school partners of Crestron allow their faculty members to trigger a Campus Safety Alert directly from the lectern touch screen if a medical situation or other emergency arises.
Dorms and residence halls
In study spaces, meeting rooms, and co-working areas within student housing, students expect to have the ability to collaborate with each other (even with those located remotely) and have access to areas for clubs and organized groups to gather. Adding technology that enables the sharing of ideas gives students a sense of community and closeness.
More technologies finding their place
In addition to the proliferation of AV technology, scheduling touch screens have become a popular vehicle to inform students, event attendees, and staff about room availability and usage. And wireless presentation technology is being deployed in more and more learning spaces, regardless of configuration, enabling faculty or guest speakers to move about a space without being tethered to a floor box or wall plate.
Very soon, we’ll have a comprehensive new Crestron Design Database that you can use for thought-starters or for system examples anytime you think of another possible use case on campus.
Lastly, if you’re reading this and think you already know all the closets and corners where AV technology is needed on campus, that’s excellent! I invite you to share your knowledge with anyone on campus who you think might be willing to consider these technologies, even if it isn’t something that’s typically top of mind for them. These might include your Facilities department, event centers, athletic departments, student life offices, and even your CIOs, CTOs, or School Architect offices.
By John Hulen