Preparing for a new school year used to mean cleaning the desks and checking the pencil sharpener. But modern institutions of higher education now have a lot more equipment to worry about in their classrooms.
Your IT and AV experts now must make sure classroom technology is running smoothly or risk being flooded with help calls at the start of the year.
During summer break, many classrooms, labs, and other education spaces may go unused for months. Equipment may have stopped working, or might have been “borrowed” by other departments and never returned. Projector bulbs may have burned out, and some systems may no longer connect to the Internet because of unplugged routers or new passwords.
If your systems go unchecked before professors, teachers and students come back to the classroom, that flurry of urgent calls can leave your staff scrambling.
Follow this checklist to make sure all equipment and technology is in proper working order so you can avoid disgruntled users and get the year off to a smooth start.
Back-To-School Checklist for Higher Ed AV Equipment
Not every urgent call from an audiovisual (AV) user can be avoided, but proper planning, preparation and maintenance can keep emergencies to a minimum, reduce AV system downtime, and get the school year started right for teachers, students, and staff.
Use this checklist for your classroom technology check up, and follow these simple tips:
1. Invest in prevention
Instead of waiting for AV users to call you with an emergency or critical malfunction at the start of the term, inventory all your AV assets and test all your systems before classes start to prevent surprises and poor AV performance when the school year starts. You probably perform regular maintenance checks and necessary repairs on hardware and other AV equipment during the school year; performing those same checks, services, and repairs when school is out of session or—at the very least—right before school starts will ensure everything is in proper working order for the beginning of the school year.
2. Prepare for optimal functionality
You’ve tested the AV equipment and everything seems to be in working order—the podium microphone turns on, the projector bulbs are new, the connection to the display is operational. So the classroom is ready, right? Maybe not. Just because the equipment works doesn’t mean it meets the needs of your users or that they know how to use it to its full potential. Do users know how to turn the equipment on and off properly? Do they know how to connect laptops and other personal devices to the display system? Can they troubleshoot simple problems as they pop up? It’s frustrating when you’ve checked all your AV systems only to have a user report that things aren’t working properly. Take time before school starts to make sure all AV components are not only working, but that they are performing optimally and are easy to use, with readily available user instructions.
3. Don’t shy away from staff surges
Even with the best-laid plans and preparations, there will still be a higher volume of equipment emergencies in the first few days and weeks of school. You’ll require a robust IT team to meet them efficiently and effectively. Don’t worry about overstaffing upfront to meet demand. Even when your team has put out all the back-to-school “fires,” your staff can help you be proactive in preventing help desk calls.IT staff with extra bandwidth can visit classrooms or meet with teachers individually to ensure all AV systems are working properly and to troubleshoot minor issues before they become major problems. Regular communication with end users can also help your team identify recurring questions or problems and address them more effectively.You might discover there is a system-wide glitch that needs to be fixed, that user directions need to be updated, or that there is a specific process that should be addressed in a staff-wide training—all of which will prevent future emergencies, malfunctions, and negative user experiences. A robust team can also help identify and track technology trends for higher education and prepare your institution to embrace and implement the newest and best education technology.
4. Make sure you have a backup solution
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee against last-minute or unforeseen technical problems, so your preparation must include emergency backup plans and temporary fixes. Identify equipment from rooms not currently in use that could serve as temporary replacements. As you assess your equipment, have a plan for determining when it is worth repairing and when it isn’t. If you see trends in the type of equipment that is failing, start developing a larger-scale upgrade initiative. A long-term plan will help you ensure next school year goes even more smoothly.
Why Good AV Matters in Higher Education
There is no doubt that up-to-date AV capabilities are increasingly critical to the success of higher education. Integrated AV in classrooms benefits students by increasing collaboration opportunities and creating more interesting and interactive learning experiences. Integrated AV also helps higher education institutions attract students and faculty because the schools can offer flexibility and innovative teaching methods.
The increasing need for high-quality AV products in higher education means institutions are spending big money on education technology. A report released last year at EdTechXGlobal, a leading education-technology focused conference, predicted the education technology spending would reach $252 billion by the year 2020.
But that’s only a good investment if schools devote time and resources to maintaining equipment and empowering users to optimize the available technology to meet their needs.