Installation Profile: AV Rx

Two labs exemplify the latest technology-driven transformations in the world of healthcare education.
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Installation Profile: AV Rx

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

Two labs exemplify the latest technology-driven transformations in the world of healthcare education.

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The Northeeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM) graduates 100 doctors annually. In 2007, it opened its pharmacy school. To prep the medical and pharmacy students passing through NEOUCOM’s doors, AVI-SPL designed and integrated two state-of-the-art instructional laboratories.

Advanced audio and visual technologies have proliferated over the past decade in both healthcare facilities and educational institutions. So it's no surprise that AV systems are transforming the delivery of medical education. Online learning with video and audio is one widespread application, but the transformation of the traditional medical classroom and laboratory has also proceeded apace, with high-end AV technology used to amplify, enhance, and supplement face-to-face instruction and dialogue in a classroom setting.

The Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy (NEOUCOM) provides an illustrative example. Founded in 1973 and located in Rootstown, Ohio, NEOUCOM graduates roughly 100 doctors annually. In 2007, it opened its pharmacy school with a class of 73 students. Recently, NEOUCOM experienced a revolution in audio and visual instruction, culminating in its latest project: AVI-SPL designed and implemented two state-of-the-art instructional laboratories for medical and pharmacy students.

“In five years, we've transformed all the teaching spaces literally from chalkboard and whiteboard presentations to advanced AV systems,” says Ron McGrady, the university's director of information technology. “It started with instructors walking in with a projector, hooking the computer to it manually. But now all the classrooms are set up so the instructors can present their materials electronically with the touch of a few buttons.”

This transformation of the instructional setting has been driven by the need to meet the expectations and learning requirements of a new, technology-savvy generation of students.

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In the pharmacy lab, all control occurs from one central instructor’s podium. Visual content is displayed on four 6ft. Draper Silhouette drop-down screens lit by four Mitsubishi XL5900LU LCD projectors.

“In the old school, if you missed a lecture, you were out of luck,” McGrady says. “But today, you have to recognize that students are your customers, and in the digital age, students learn differently. They expect course materials online if they miss a class, and they can multi-task. They can have an iPod going, get a call on their wireless phone, and be computing all at the same time. That's been the transformation, and the technology has evolved that enables them to do that.”

However, students are not the only users of AV systems and other learning technologies. McGrady and his staff have learned that widespread adoption by faculty requires careful attention to the user interface.

“Faculty were more the late adopters of technology, but what I've found is if you build quality solutions and enable those people to function on their own, they're more than happy to try to utilize the technology,” McGrady says. “But if you make it cumbersome, make their focus go away from the presentation of the materials, then they're not going to use the technology.”

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Installation Profile: AV Rx

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

Two labs exemplify the latest technology-driven transformations in the world of healthcare education.

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Spaced throughout the multi-disciplinary lab are 14 3M Digital Wall Displays Plus Series 9200IC digital smartboards with built-in projectors.


This simplicity-of-use philosophy provided one guiding principle for NEOUCOM's latest and most complex AV project: the design and implementation of two flexible, reconfigurable instructional laboratories. One is a multi-disciplinary lab and the other is a pharmacy lab, both of which share an AV equipment closet. The project began in early 2007, with the goal of completion prior to the school's first incoming class of pharmacy students in the fall.

After multiple needs-assessment meetings with NEOUCOM faculty and staff, it became clear that flexibility was a top priority for the renovation of the laboratory spaces. These spaces had previously been a collection of small individual rooms used for small-group study. Now they were no longer conducive to the school's typical class sizes and instructional approaches.

“The faculty needed to have the capability to do presentations to 75 to 100 students all at once, as well as being able to break up the students into separate areas for smaller presentations,” McGrady says. “So when they designed the multidisciplinary medical lab, they designed it with foldable, flexible walls that could divide into halves or quads. Then the faculty came to understand that if they wanted to do presentations, they would have to have multiple projection units and flexible audio capabilities. Ultimately, they concluded that in the main space, they needed to have up to 14 presentation areas.”

At this point, as with several other AV implementations in previous years, the university turned to AVI-SPL's Broadview Heights office in Cleveland to handle the project. The integrator's team — including sales engineer Nick Santoro, senior engineer and programmer Eric Hanley, and production manager Chad Elliot — started its engagement with several planning meetings to assess needs and evaluate technology options.

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In the multidisciplinary medical lab, central control is provided by a 15in. Elo TouchSystems IntelliTouch touchpanel with an AMX TPI/4 touchpanel interface. A Sony BRC300 pan-tilt-zoom camera captures the instructor, presenting him or her side by side or picture in picture with other content on display such as a presentation, a video, or an image from the lab’s Elmo HV-8000SX digital document camera.

“The biggest key was to get an understanding of how the pharmacy and medical instructors would use the labs, what technologies different departments would need at their disposal, how they would interact with students, and how we needed to accommodate their teaching methods,” says Santoro, who worked with McGrady and his staff on AVI-SPL's previous projects at NEOUCOM, which included installing AV systems with touchpanel interfaces in several lecture halls. “They wanted to be able to teach in large groups, smaller groups, and breakout sessions, and to make these changes on the fly to create a dynamic instructional environment. Moreover, both rooms were really labs, not traditional classrooms, so there were higher tables with chemical-resistant tops for experiments, test cultures, dissecting, and so forth.”

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Installation Profile: AV Rx

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

Two labs exemplify the latest technology-driven transformations in the world of healthcare education.


Initially, McGrady envisioned using multiple projectors to support large-group to small-group instruction in the multi-disciplinary lab, which is the larger and more complex of the two laboratories. However, upon further discussion with AVI-SPL, NEOUCOM opted to install 14 digital smartboards with built-in projectors. After vendor evaluations, 3M Digital Wall Displays Plus Series 9200ICs were chosen for installation around the room. Each wall display can be controlled centrally in large-, medium-, or small-group configurations; or they can be controlled individually as a single display using its own dedicated computer or from a laptop computer or a DVD/VCR player/recorder.

Instructors can reconfigure and control the room using a variety of intuitive controls. Central control is provided by a 15in. Elo TouchSystems IntelliTouch touchpanel with an AMX TPI/4 touchpanel interface. Four additional 7in. AMX NXD-CV7 Modero touchpanels are located around the room for use when the lab is divided in half or in quarters. An AMX eight-button MIO keypad provides control when each of the 14 wall displays are being used individually. The control interfaces are familiar to instructors because they are similar to ones used in the other classroom AV systems previously implemented by AVI-SPL.

“The touchpanels are very dynamic and allow the instructor to configure this on the fly,” says Hanley, who developed a logical flow chart for each possible room scenario and then wrote nearly 14,000 lines of custom code — a month's worth of work — for the control system. “They don't have to shut down the system to reconfigure the room; they just use a wizard screen. The wizard remembers their settings and makes the adjustments accordingly. The whole design was for ease of use for the instructor,” Hanley says.

A Sony BRC300 pan-tilt-zoom camera captures the instructor, presenting him or her side by side or picture in picture with other content — such as a presentation, a video, or an image from the lab's Elmo HV-8000SX digital document camera — on the display. The Elmo camera, Santoro says, is the modern, more flexible version of the classic overhead projector; it can display X-ray films, transparencies, 3D objects, and hard copies.

Audio is captured via two Audio-Technica U857Q gooseneck podium microphones at the central instructor's station, as well as by five Shure ULXS124/85 wireless microphone systems with lapel and handheld mics that are dedicated for use when the room is broken down in half or in quarters. Around the room, a total of 32 JBL Control 26CT 70V loudspeakers are recessed into the ceiling; these are powered by two Crown Audio CTs 1200 audio amplifiers. As with video, audio control is broken down according to the room's configuration.

The classroom even supports traditional writing on the whiteboard, and information displayed on the 3M wall displays can be annotated by instructors and students manually with digital markers. Each room quadrant also has a Smart Technologies Sympodium, an interactive, touch-sensitive pen display that allows instructors to digitally mark on any computer-generated graphical content. Instructors also have the ability, using the touchscreen control, to record and publish streaming .mpeg files containing their lectures and any other classroom instructional content that appears on the displays using Sonic Foundry's Mediasite live recorder. Students can view this content later, review the class sessions, or attend class virtually by logging into the school's online learning content system.

Behind the sophisticated yet user-friendly controls, all routing, switching, and sound mixing for the multi-disciplinary lab's RGB HV, S-Video, and audio are handled via an Extron CrossPoint 450 Plus 2424 HVA switch, an Extron MAV Plus 24×24 SVA switch, and a Polycom Voice-Vortex EF2280 auto mic/line mixer and DSP. Signal processing is handled via AMX NI-4100 NetLinx control system processor in conjunction with other control modules such as RS-232 volume control.

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Installation Profile: AV Rx

Dec 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By John W. DeWitt

Two labs exemplify the latest technology-driven transformations in the world of healthcare education.


In the smaller pharmacy laboratory, there were no challenging room configurations to contend with; all control occurs from one central instructor's podium. However, unique pharmacy teaching requirements, combined with the room's layout, created other challenges for AVI-SPL to overcome.

“Students are in closed-off desks, facing two directions with the ability to move around, and there are structural poles in the room,” Hanley says. “The trick here was giving all students a good vantage point on what the instructor is doing. Students are training on the making and mixing of pharmaceuticals, so we had to capture the instructors working with the tools of their trade.”

In a traditional pharmacy-lab setting, a group of students might cluster around an instructor to watch. In NEOUCOM's state-of-the-art facility, AV systems bring the instructor and his or her detailed actions right to each student. “Instead of having all students wrap around the instructor, we use a camera mounted above the instructor station to show close-up handwork,” Hanley says. The standard-definition Canon VC-C50iR PTZ camera was chosen in particular because of its microdrive, which dynamically adjusts the image according to the zoom level to allow smooth close-up focusing without jerky movement.

As with the multidisciplinary lab, the instructor controls the lab's AV system, including the microdrive camera, via a 15in. Elo TouchSystems IntelliTouch touchpanel and an AMX NXP-TPI/4 touchpanel interface. The instructor can save particular camera configurations or use a series of presets that can be changed on the fly. A second SD camera, a Sony EVI-D70, picks up the larger image of the instructor. Both camera images or any combination of camera view plus a presentation slide or other electronic content can be displayed side by side or picture in picture as the instructor desires.

“The operator's learning curve is small because of the way we lay out the system,” Hanley says. “For example, it's easy for the instructor to look at the touchscreen, see what video sources exist for each window, select the sources, and, once configured, preview what will be displayed before sending it out to the room.”

Visual content is displayed on four 6ft. Draper Silhouette drop-down screens lit by four Mitsubishi XL5900LU 4000-lumen XGA LCD projectors. The room also includes one 3M Digital Wall Displays Plus Series 9200IC.

“Initially the pharmacy lab was designed for one interactive wall board and one projector in the ceiling, but we had to redesign it,” McGrady says. “Some students are facing the back of the room as they are working on prescriptions, so we had to install three additional projection units. We used drop-down screens from the ceiling so we didn't have to block the windows all the time.”

A single, 4'×4' equipment room houses multiple Middle Atlantic equipment racks and other equipment to support both laboratories. A separate Extron CrossPoint Ultra 1616 HVA 16×16 ultra-wideband matrix switcher handles AV routing for the pharmacy lab. Hanley estimates the entire project used more than 10,000ft. of Liberty Wire & CableRGB-HV cabling. To ensure high signal quality on long cable runs, a total of 33 Extron RGB192V and CIA114 PC interfaces were used for every computer connection.


From purchase order to completion, AVI-SPL spent nearly four months on its latest NEOUCOM installation. The company spent about two months in design, a month on programming, and a month onsite for the installation. According to McGrady, there were only minimal technical glitches; faculty and students have readily adopted the AV systems.

“The interaction between instructor and student has been phenomenal,” he says. “I have been to classes and seen groups of students in front of the wall boards highlighting content. I think that everybody has utilized the spaces the way we hoped they would.

“One thing I would highlight is the touchpanel interface. It is not a canned solution. Eric Hanley built an interface that's personalized for NEOUCOM, and it's used in all of our teaching spaces, so instructors don't feel like they're using something different. Faculty and staff are at times intimidated by technology, so the user interface has been the key to success. I think the built-in video-streaming capability, so that instructors can record their presentations, is also a critical component for students.”

Just as digital wall displays superseded chalkboards and whiteboards, the venerable corkboards have been supplanted by digital signage in the gathering area outside the two laboratories. AVI-SPL wrapped up the integration project by installing two 40in. Samsung 400PX WXGA LCD monitors powered by a MagicBox Aavelin AV400P HD/P digital-signage server.

John W. DeWitt, editor of SVC's Digital Signage Update enewsletter, is a marketing consultant and business writer based in New Salem, Mass. He can be reached at or

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