Improved Classroom Controls Now Available

There is little question that the classroom is the most prominent place on any university campus. With all of the frequent changes in technology utilized in the educational process, our classroom equipment requires constant attention to make and keep SMU on the cutting edge of what’s needed to shape the next generation of world changers.

Classroom keypadOIT has taken immense strides over the summer to update and improve classrooms across campus. One of the largest projects has been to consolidate the multiple types of control systems into fewer and simpler configurations. This means that no matter what classroom you’re in, the controls for the audio/visual equipment will be the same or very similar. Plus the controls will be easier to understand and more reliable when it matters most. Continue reading Improved Classroom Controls Now Available

Remote Control Assistance in the Classroom

Technology plays an vital role in classroom instruction.  When it doesn’t work as expected, it’s not only a tremendous disruption but it can be quite stressful as well.  Knowing that time is of essence, we began planning for a way to decrease the amount of time a class is interrupted due to technology issues or waiting for help to arrive. Continue reading Remote Control Assistance in the Classroom

Winter Break Brings New Classroom Upgrades to Campus

During the winter break, our Classroom Support team was hard at work to make sure classrooms in need of technology upgrades were ready for the new semester. As semesters go by, heavily used equipment becomes less reliable and older technology requires replacement to keep classrooms functional.

Almost forty classrooms received upgrades over the break with improvements including new projectors, enhanced functionality, revamped control systems and more. Here are a few examples of the work that’s been completed across campus:

  • Annette Simmons:  New projectors in 138, 144 and 218.  New lamps in 221 and 213.
  • Dedman Life Science: New projectors in 110, 127, 128, 129, 130 and 131.
  • Clements Hall: New projectors and control systems in G16, G18, 120, 126, 225, 324, 325, 326 and 334.  New computers installed in 225, G18, 326 and 334.
  • Dallas Hall: New control systems in 120, 137 and 138.
  • Umphrey Lee: New power control in 233.
  • Owens Arts Center: New power control in B150 and 2020.
  • Hyer Hall: TV/wall monitor installed in G21.

These repairs and improvements are just a small portion of the larger mission to update all classrooms on campus for a more consistent experience for faculty and students. As always, if you have any questions regarding the operation of classroom equipment, feel free to contact the IT Help Desk at 214-768-4357. If there is an immediate technical problem with the classroom, a support representative will be dispatched to your location and should arrive within five minutes.

Why is it so Difficult to Play a DVD in the Classroom?

After volume problems, this is the most common issue we hear about in the Classroom Support office (and maybe the most annoying problem for users). The DVD worked at home. It worked last semester in a different room. But now the computer is spitting it out, not recognizing it, or it’s doing nothing while the class stares at a blank screen and it’s likely some may utter words you won’t find in the Bible. What makes playing a DVD so difficult? This post will help you identify bad DVD discs, and in future post we’ll discuss working with the DVD software.

Part of the problem is that DVDs themselves are not perfect. A tiny scratch, or a little dirt in the DVD tray, can ruin everything. For reasons that are too complex to elaborate on here, this can cause a frustrating situation where a scratched disc will work in one player but not in another. Making things worse, educational companies are notorious for making inferior DVDs that arrive in a terrible state even though they are brand new.

How can you tell if the disc you’re using is cheaply made? Turn it over and see if the bottom is shiny and metallic, if so, then you’re looking at a well-made DVD. These are made in factories by permanently stamping a platter of aluminum into shape and encasing it in plastic, and it’s what a disc containing professional, Hollywood film will look like.

This is was a professionally made DVD will look like.
A DVD that looks like this will usually work, every time.

However, if the disc was made cheaply then the bottom will be less metallic, and you will see shades of purple, blue, or green underneath the plastic. A ring of a slightly different color around the outside is often present. The purple stuff you’re seeing is a fragile dye used by consumer DVD writers, and, obviously, it’s not as durable as stamped aluminum.

Bad disc.
A disc that looks like this might work. It might not.

These discs degrade over time until they are useless, and some of them will refuse to work in certain computers. When this happens, it’s not a software problem—it’s the result of cheap DVD manufacturing. The dye cannot be shaped as perfectly as its aluminum counterpart, and the result is that DVD players must struggle to read the information. Making things even more complicated is the fact that some of these “cheap” discs work better than others, so there is no way to tell how well one will perform; some people use these consumer level DVDs regularly without any trouble.

They were downloading Kazaa, anway.
Meanwhile, some of you have had this experience…

What do you do if you’re concerned about your DVD? First of all, you should always test out your media in the classroom where you’re going to use it before relying on it. If it doesn’t work, contact our office and we will see if we can make it cooperate.

Another option is to test it out on your own laptop. If it works there, then simply bring that laptop to class and plug it into our projector. (Contact us at 214-768-8888, or help@smu.edu, if you need assistance getting this set up.)  This is probably the least complicated way to bring media to your students, because it allows you to make sure everything is set up just they way you like it.

Stay tuned. In an upcoming post we will tackle the other half of this problem by de-mystifying the DVD playing software.

Where’s My Volume?

by Adam Jones

In the Classroom Support office we get a lot of phone calls from professors who are having trouble setting the volume in their rooms. Since this comes up so often, I’ve decided to write a guide to help you.

While this might seem simple to experienced computer users, it is still confusing to others. (Which is exactly how I feel when my father tries to explain what an intake manifold does. No idea.) For those of you who have trouble with sound settings, just follow these instructions, and you’ll know what to do. Continue reading Where’s My Volume?