Report: Class technology lags five years

Faculty are complaining that GW’s classroom technology is behind the curve, and a report found this month that the outdated equipment stems from a “severe” budget shortfall.

Almost all classrooms have outdated equipment, and GW’s classroom technology division cannot meet professors’ demands for upgrades, according to the Faculty Senate report.

Some of the equipment passed the threshold of being outdated “at least five years ago,” Hermann Helgert, chair of the Faculty Senate Physical Facilities Committee, said. Some professors say that, as others universities tackle new learning models and high-tech classroom experiences, GW still has work to do.

“It’s just out-of-date to not have this kind of equipment,” Helgert, who conducted the report, said.

Out of the 135 general purpose classrooms at GW, 84 are equipped with mostly outdated audio-visual and IT equipment, according to the report. The University relies on analog instead of digital equipment and lacks flat-screen display panels in classrooms, Helgert said, adding that GW is behind “the paradigm shift going on in the education business.”

Yvonne Captain-Hidalgo, a professor of international affairs, said it is “somewhat exasperating” to teach in classrooms with outdated technology, especially when groups of students need to do presentations.

“We have to go through the awkward and time-consuming process of first getting the bulky equipment from another building and then setting it up,” she said.

Political science professor Robert Stoker said he was not able to land a classroom with the technology he needed for one of his fall classes.

“I think there is a shortage at GW, where demand for classroom technology seems to have outrun supply,” he said.

Helgert said more funding would also permit Academic Technologies to expand its maintenance crew, cutting the gap between faculty and repairs and allowing for what he called a “quick response team.”

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard declined to disclose Academic Technologies’ budget figures.

Catherine Anderson, a professor of interior design, called technology hang-ups “frustrating,” noting a situation in which a guest presenter was left without a working microphone.

“I do feel a bit embarrassed when I think about the fact that student pay huge sums of money, and here we are, jerry-rigging the presentation like this,” Anderson said.

But the technology division is planning digital improvements, hoping to cut out waste and to increase spending power and remove analog televisions and overhead projectors. The division plans to have digital technology in all classrooms in three to four years.

Associate Provost and Chief Academic Technology Officer P.B. Garrett pointed to progress the division has made in the last 14 years. Since then, she said, the University has gone from six to 150 technology-equipped classrooms on the Foggy Bottom Campus, adding cameras and microphones that record lectures in 31 classrooms and integrating class clickers.

Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Planning Forrest Maltzman declined to say whether the provost’s office, which sets funding for Academic Technologies, would look to increase funding soon.

“Rather than setting an expenditure target, our goal is to ensure that every student learns using the technology that best enhances their class experience, and that limited resources are used as efficiently as possible,” Maltzman said.

The lack of funding for Academic Technologies contrasts the massive capital investments made in academic buildings. The University upgraded Ames Hall for $19 million last year, and it will build the Science and Engineering Hall and School of Public Health and Health Services building for $350 million combined.

GW is also planning improvements on aging buildings like Corcoran and Tompkins halls, and it refurbished three classrooms in Monroe and Tompkins hall to aid group work in physics and engineering classes. According to the 2013 capital budget, the University will spend $369,000 this fiscal year on classroom refurbishments and technology upgrades.

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