New high-tech features are being installed in several classrooms on the Walla Walla University campus this summer thanks to generous donations to the WWU Fund from alumni and other friends of the university. These new classroom features will help create spaces that are more convenient for instruction during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond.
“When WWU shifted to a spring quarter held entirely online, our Advancement team began to connect with donors interested in helping WWU weather this particular disruption and, more importantly, interested in investing in our students during an incredibly challenging time,” said Jodi Wagner, vice president for University Relations and Advancement. “President John McVay, our Advancement officers, and three hardworking student callers reached out to encourage our donors to give to our Walla Walla University Fund, which helps with projects that are considered the university’s most immediate needs.”
One immediate need was for enhancements to classroom technologies. While the WWU Fund has always provided important help for student scholarships, academic programming, and facility improvement, since March, money raised through the WWU Fund has been designated to help the university provide the equipment and technology that students need to continue with their academic programming in this new COVID-19 environment.
Technology upgrades installed this summer include the addition of mounted cameras that can tilt, zoom, or pan to show a panoramic view of the classroom or to follow an individual, such as the instructor, as they move around the classroom. Upgrades will also include additional display monitors so students and faculty can see class participants who are connecting from outside the classroom, as well as specialized microphones with noise and echo cancellation that will automatically pick up speech from the entire room.
“The advances in the audio equipment for these spaces has been astounding in the last year or two,” said Dave Reeves, WWU director of teaching and learning technologies. “Specifically, the microphone arrays and audio processing units are just tech magic. The systems automatically manage audio mixing and gain adjustments without any intervention from the user. They can pick up and adjust audio levels for an instructor roaming the classroom as well as a student speaking quietly in the back row.”
These high-tech features may provide options for faculty members who may need to teach from their offices or homes and will potentially make it possible for students who are sick to attend classes remotely and interact in more meaningful ways with their instructor and fellow students.
Classrooms that will include these features will be located in Bowers Hall, Rigby Hall, the Chan Shun Pavilion, and the Winter Educational Complex.
“COVID-19 has made the logistics of teaching more difficult. Some students and faculty may not be able to attend classes in the normal way, and we wish to provide opportunities for them to continue the educational process as effectively as possible. These systems give us options for more effective learning environments,” said Scott Ligman, associate vice president for Academic Administration.
The new high-tech classroom features will be ready for use when classes begin fall quarter on Monday, Sept. 14.
“As we look at fall quarter and all that is needed to keep our campus, students, faculty, and staff safe and fully engaged in strong academic, spiritual, and social programming, generous donors continue to step forward to help,” said Wagner. “Our students very much want to be back together on our campuses, and the safety arrangements we’re making now could never have been expected when we set this year’s budget more than a year ago.”
Wagner and the WWU Advancement team continue to encourage unrestricted gifts through the WWU Fund as a way to help the university weather this storm and keep students focused on completing their degrees.
Learn how you can help by contacting Troy Patzer, associate vice president for alumni and advancement services, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by visiting the WWU Fund web page.
Posted July 23, 2020