The Engineering Professional Education program (EPE) at Purdue University has been helping distance students complete engineering degrees for more than 60 years, going so far as to record lectures on VHS tapes and ship them to individual students across the country, or use dedicated satellites and telephone lines.
With today’s online access, the use of distance learning has grown exponentially, but EPE found its recently installed audio capture systems were underperforming and making learning more difficult for distance students.
The Tech Decision
According to Joshua Brown, Multimedia Production Engineer at EPE, after moving to a new building in 2014 and installing new audio capture systems, students frequently complained they couldn’t hear questions being asked by students in the physical classroom, detracting from the distance learning experience. The school and their integrator tried to reconfigure the existing system to improve audio clarity for live class streams and recordings that are available on demand, but no matter what they tried, the technology simply wasn’t up to the task.
“We worked with our existing systems integrator to make adjustments to the original microphone array we had installed in the new facility,” Brown says. “But due to its limited configuration capability, we became increasingly disappointed with the audio quality we could achieve from its omni-directional microphones.”
After conducting extensive research into the latest audio conferencing and recording technologies, Brown discovered and became interested in ClearOne’s solutions and reputation for flawless audio capture and conferencing systems.
“At that point I contacted our local ClearOne sales representative and was quickly sent Beamforming Microphone Array and CONVERGE Pro DSP Mixer units to test,” Brown says.
Brown was so pleased with the results of the sample units that he decided ClearOne’s technologies were the ideal solution to resolve EPE’s audio issues. This meant they had to switch integrators, hiring ClearOne dealer CCS Presentation Systems to install ClearOne Beamforming Microphone Arrays and ClearOne CONVERGE Pro DSPs in three main classrooms.
After the decision was made, time was of the essence, and CSS Indiana had to work quickly to ensure not a single lecture went unrecorded.
“We had a very short time window over the 2016 holiday break to install the Beamforming Microphone Arrays and the CONVERGE Pro DSP mixers and ensure that everything was up and running in time for the students returning in January 2017,” says Josh Whites, Account Executive at CCS Presentation Systems. “Our expertise gained from previous deployments of ClearOnesolutions enabled us to successfully meet EPE’s tight deadline.”
The installation totaled seven Beamforming Microphone Arrays, with three of them covering the largest room that seats 75 students, and each of the other two rooms receiving two arrays. The improved fidelity is possible thanks to the equipment’s adaptive technology, which can detect where sound is coming from and automatically switch between each array’s 24 microphones to best capture clear audio signal.
Additionally, as the flagship product in ClearOne’s CONVERGE Pro professional audio conferencing product line, the CONVERGE Pro 880 is a complete audio system that delivers rich functionality with improved audio performance, enhanced management, and simplified configuration for audio conferencing.
The result was crystal-clear audio from every position in the room, with the added bonus of improved fidelity from the professor themselves. The previous systems had included a lavalier microphone at the lectern, which had encountered issues with echoes and feedback.
“As the ClearOne solution requires much less equipment than that which EPE had previously deployed, it has proven to be much simpler and easier for them to use,” Whitis says. “High-quality audio is key to distance students obtaining the best possible learning experience during lectures, and ClearOne’s solution has helped us to deliver exactly that for Purdue University’s Engineering Professional Education.”