Western Nebraska Community College had a Teleconferencing system in place; it was 10 years-old. As new technology came on-line, WNCC decided to upgrade their system to meet the needs of Distance Learning and position themselves on the forefront of a powerful trend in Higher Education.
Upgrade an aging system and replace it with new, configurable and completely reliable components capable of meeting the growing needs of the college. Ethernet connectivity and remote configuration capabilities were a “must”.
The new system would serve at least 120 hours of classroom time per week to 7 classrooms in three separate locations and up to 21 high schools throughout the 11 counties of Nebraska’s Panhandle. Statewide access is currently in the development phase.
Since reliability and remote configuration/diagnosis features were also key factors in the decision making process. Configuration changes, diagnostic tools had to be available and conducted.
Originally put into service in 1998, Western Nebraska Community College had relied on several ClearOne AP 800s. Ten years later, new technology and near constant use called for the venerable system to be replaced. The reliability of the original AP 800s and the latest feature offerings from ClearOne made the Converge Pro units an obvious choice.
Reliability was not the sole factor in WNCC’s decision. Each location was connected to a high-speed network and was between 65-85 miles apart. While other manufacturers offered network connectivity and remote configuration options, none had the experience, flexibility and reputation of ClearOne. Using the Converge Console software, each unit could be configured remotely. Changes to the system could be made from one location and distributed through the entire network.
If problems arose, diagnostics were performed from remote locations. Converge Console was configured to direct and record automated tasks, such as diagnostics, mic tests and logging.
These features were crucial, but another (lesser known) feature also played a role -- a simple telephone interface. Considered to be a “failsafe” or emergency backup, the telephone interface provided a simple solution:
“…If the network, video or something fails, you can simply bring up the interface and dial.”
When it came to making purchase decisions, the choice was simple. Western Nebraska Community College chose proven reliability, industry leadership and an advanced feature set.
They chose ClearOne.
The college installed the new equipment at each of its chosen satellite locations without issue. Connection to the network and configuring the various components proved to be relatively simple.
Once installed, a custom combination of hardware and software was created to control the entire system. The software was built to run on a PC with a touch-screen interface. A dedicated T-1 line was used to provide bandwidth for audio/video conferencing and remote learning.
Instructors were taught methods to make distance learning more effective. Regular visits to remote sites, introducing more interactivity with an entire audience (whether physically present or not) blended to create a popular and effective distance learning platform.
Student response has been overwhelmingly positive. Blending on-site teaching with off-site classrooms is difficult. Not only do instructors need to learn new teaching methods, the participants must feel like “a part of the experience”. This isn’t possible without the proper application of technology. Full-duplex communication, echo cancellation and other advanced DSP features combined with video allow ideas to flow seamlessly. When applied correctly, technology blends silently into the background rather than becoming an unwelcomed guest in your conversation.
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