Universities increasing web conferencing and lecture-capture capacity to expand hybrid learning options in support of social distancing protocols.
Orono, Maine — The University of Maine System plans to expedite $2.56 million in classroom upgrades this summer to maximize the number of learning spaces capable of supporting web conferencing and video lecture capturing. Additional academic flexibility and connectivity options are being developed to increase classroom content delivery options and potentially accommodate social distancing protocols.
UMS Chancellor Dannel Malloy and Chief Information Officer David Demers presented the expedited investment plan to the UMS Board of Trustees at its May meeting. Earlier this spring Chancellor Malloy formed the 2020 Safe Return Planning Committee to develop operational plans and protocols that can be aligned with changing public health guidance to welcome students back to campus. The University of Maine System is also collaborating with public and private higher education leaders to establish a common reopening framework for Maine’s colleges and universities.
The investment planned for this summer will cover approximately 180 of the 263 classrooms across the campuses that recently received audio-visual equipment upgrades as part of Phase I of the System’s bond-funded Classrooms for the Future initiative. The recommendation also includes providing each campus with a number of portable web-conferencing carts for use in rooms lacking upgraded audio-visual equipment.
The investment plan aims to create scheduling and location flexibility to meet peak demand for classroom facilities across the System and create more options for students to access academic programming. $2.26 million will be expended to upgrade physical classrooms and $300,000 for the portable web conferencing carts over the summer.
“Our commitment to meet our students where they are and serve them safely must be met with investments in our technology infrastructure,” said Chancellor Malloy. “The upgrades we are making this summer will give us more options for offering face-to-face instruction on campus this fall and more opportunities to extend the classroom experience to students remotely and at times that fit their work and family obligations.”
“The expedited IT investments Chancellor Malloy has proposed will provide our campuses with needed flexibility to address the short-term uncertainty we can expect to face this fall,” said James Erwin, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “Beyond this fall, student expectations around academic flexibility and employer demands for program innovation are already shaping how our universities must deliver academics to meet our state’s needs and compete in the changing higher education marketplace. Our campuses must be properly equipped and connected for the System to be a leader in addressing Maine’s workforce needs.”