Teaching venues have become much more reliant on technology over the last few years. Consequently, a decision was made last year to move the Classroom Facilities Unit to the Information and Communications Technology Services (ICTS) department under the leadership of Kira Chernotsky, Director of Customer Services.
A full audit of all teaching venues, a satisfaction survey and visits to lecturers highlighted an extensive list of changes that were needed to improve both the facilities themselves and the support provided to lecturers using the teaching venues.
A Classroom Renewal proposal was approved and budget was allocated to the project, which began in November last year. The three-year project aims to standardise and improve the equipment in classrooms and improve support. "We are both daunted and excited to be running a project of this magnitude, that has the potential to contribute to teaching and learning in a truly meaningful way," says Chernotsky.
Most of the physical maintenance work scheduled for Phase 1 took place over the Dec/Jan vacation, and saw renovations take place in 41 out of the 152 venues. One quick fix was to replace the security safe keys with proximity readers, so that lecturers need carry only their staff cards and won't have to worry about safe keys. Lecture capturing got a boost too, as new equipment was installed in six venues; and four other venues received audio upgrades.
One notable change, apart from the improved venues themselves, is the support model. The existing CFU team were inducted into ICTS, and additional members have been employed to bump up the support offered to lecturers in teaching venues. The new team, called Classroom Support Services (CSS), consists of a dedicated group of consultants to handle classroom support queries over the phone, and a group of onsite consultants who will attend to problems in the venues. Even though the same x4500 phone number as for the IT Helpdesk will be used, an interactive voice response system will direct calls for classroom support straight through to the CSS consultants. This will minimise the length of time callers wait to be answered. A central email address will also direct calls to the CSS consultants. Stock will be held of commonly required items, so that quick swop-outs can take place.
Another change visible in the teaching venues is the provision of standardised user documentation explaining how to set up and use the equipment in each venue. The user documentation is available from the ICTS website, as well as in printed form at each venue.
ICTS has also addressed a burning issue among teaching staff: an online database is in development, which will make it easy to see what equipment is available in any given teaching venue. Lecturers no longer need to race across campus carrying their own equipment just in case their allocated venue doesn't have the equipment they need. The database will be updated to reflect any changes that occur as a result of improvements and upgrades to equipment.
You can track the progress of the project on the ICTS website by navigating to > About ICTS > ICTS Projects > UCT Classroom Renewal.
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