Amid a torrent of rapidly changing student needs in the spring of 2020, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) embarked on a mission to make its campus a leader in remote learning accessibility. The college’s Office of Media and Technology Support Services (MTSS) began evaluating several options to deliver high-quality audio capture in classrooms and lecture halls, ultimately commencing a multi-phase rollout of ClearOne solutions across the entire campus to empower educators with reliable, easy-to-use remote learning technologies that deliver superior performance.
The Tech Challenge
When COVID threw a wrench into in-person classes, we quickly recognized the need to develop hybrid learning environments that support the ongoing success of our staff and students,” said Director of User Support Services Jon Bannan. “The most critical need we identified was that any solution must be dead simple to operate, or otherwise risk introducing interruptions and frustration into educators’ daily schedules. The ClearOne COLLABORATE Versa Lite CT system stood out as a high-performing solution that’s compatible with virtually any computer, mobile device or collaboration platform, making it easy to deploy in multi-use spaces that host different educators throughout the day.”
Featuring the ClearOne BMA CT, a beamforming microphone solution that blends in with drop ceilings, the COLLABORATE Versa Lite CT system provides clear audio pickup and while simplifying connection of AV peripherals and computers through the ClearOne Versa USB Hub. It offers powerful features including acoustic echo cancellation and adaptive steering, which intelligently switches between the unit’s multiple directional microphones to optimize pickup based on the current location of speaker or meeting host.
To date, MTSS has installed 53 Versa Lite CT systems in small- and medium-sized classrooms in conjunction with a variety of camera solutions that offer automatic tracking to keep the presenter in frame as they move around the room. Combined with the adaptive steering capability of the BMA CT, these systems provide educators ultimate flexibility and allow them to step away from the front of the room white maintaining consistently excellent audio and video quality for remote learners. Most rooms also include a projection system, while some feature a digital display.
“Three years after we began this project, we would be hard pressed to find a student, parent or educator who expects anything less – it’s essentially a requirement now,” Bannan explained. “In the competitive college landscape, staying ahead of technology trends is vital to achieve enrollment goals and provide all students equitable access regardless of individual situations or external disruptions. Additionally, using the same solutions across campus has raised the tech confidence of staff and offers a simple, intuitive setup that even guest speakers or event hosts can operate with ease.”
After witnessing the widespread success of the Versa Lite CT solutions, MTSS turned its focus to the college’s lecture halls. In order to deliver the same simplicity and quality for its larger classes, the tech team developed a solution that combines multiple powerful BMA 360 ceiling microphones with a Converge Pro 2 DSP mixer, again in conjunction with a variety of tracking cameras.
The solution ensured the complete coverage for the larger rooms while enabling connection of up to 12 additional lavalier, lapel or other types of microphones commonly used for panel discussions and multi-speaker scenarios. The BMA 360 makes system design even easier by allowing up to three distant units to be daisy chained together using P-Link, requiring only a single home run cable to the DSP.
“As we began deploying the new audio capture solutions, we worked closely with ClearOne’s knowledgeable reps to ensure each space operates smoothly and delivers a consistent experience for staff and students,” Bannan added. “The high level of support we received from the very beginning was a determining factor in our product selection, and has provided us with assurance that any issues we encounter with installations or operations can be quickly remedied.”
Ongoing Sound Reinforcements
The deployment is ongoing, with each year’s budget providing additional funds to integrate more classrooms and spaces, including conference rooms. The first to be upgraded was the President’s conference room, which houses BMA 360 and BMA CT systems that effectively solve for the room’s challenging acoustic environment that includes many hard surfaces. This specific room also utilizes the BMA 360 Voice Lift technology that delivers equalized sound reinforcement to all areas of the room, so no attendee is left straining to hear the speaker.
“The College of New Jersey moved deftly to provide all stakeholders with the latest innovative solutions for remote learning and hybrid classrooms, and their efforts to standardize the campus’ technology are already paying dividends for staff and guests,” said ClearOne Regional Sales Director Jason DiCampello, who worked directly with Bannan. “The need for reliable, high-quality audio and video solutions in education is only going to grow, and we look forward to continuing to work with TCNJ to provide long-lasting solutions that support staff and help the college meet its goals.”
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