Newly installed technology gives URI more high-tech classrooms than anywhere in New England

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KINGSTON, R.I. – October 26, 2010 – Sixty-seven classrooms at the University of Rhode Island were upgraded last summer with state-of-the-art digital media technology, giving URI more digital-media classrooms than any other university in New England.

“The technology upgrades were designed, in part, to increase student engagement and retention by using the technology that today’s students are accustomed to,” said David Porter, URI director of Media and Technology Services. “We’re especially proud of the breadth of technology that has been installed, from classroom capture systems to problem-based learning systems, and the latest WiFi technology that enables our faculty to expand the learning environment beyond the classroom walls.”

Fifteen of the high-tech classrooms – called Next Order Multimodal Advanced Design (NOMAD) classrooms – are experimental learning spaces that enable faculty to test a variety of instructional technology. The rooms are configured with state-of-the-art touch screen controls; ceiling-mounted high-definition LCD projectors; and multiple flat screen monitors.

“The monitors can project the same video as the ceiling mounted projectors, or, with a quick tap on the touch screen control system, be configured to run problem based learning software which enables groups of students to use their laptops to work together to solve instructor assigned problems,” Porter said.

Audience response systems are also available to improve student engagement, baseline student understanding, and enable anonymous responses to sensitive questions to expand student awareness in social science courses. These high-end rooms have customized whiteboards, the latest lighting technology and furniture that can be easily configured for group work.

The classroom capture systems installed in six of the new rooms include ceiling and/or wall-mounted cameras. Some cameras have the ability to automatically follow an instructor wearing a special microphone so lessons can be captured and replayed on remote and mobile devices or rebroadcast at a later time.

Fifty-two classrooms scattered throughout the Kingston campus have been configured with the latest Crestron digital media controls, high-definition ceiling mounted LCD projectors, Blu-ray players, and video and audio inputs that can accommodate traditional analog connections as well as the latest digital interfaces found on the newest laptops.

The technology in all 67 digital media classrooms is monitored by a central server that collects data on usage, tracks projector bulb life for proactive replacement, and enables remote assistance by the University’s Classroom Media Assistance team.

URI’s wireless network in Kingston is comprised of 1,300 wireless access points that provide high speed wireless connectivity in all residence halls and academic buildings.

“As a result of this summer’s instructional technology investment, all general assignment classrooms have technology that enhances the teaching and learning environment,” said Porter. “It has positioned URI as a leader in digital media classrooms and created a catalyst to capture classroom content that can be used to support future classes and online learning.”

The new technology cost $2.4 million and was funded from federal and state grants and from a strategic allocation of University funds.