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October 25, 2001 IITS enhances high-technology facilities for students




by Barbara Black

It won’t be long before any Concordia student with an alcor account will be able to do an assignment in the library, touch it up at Java U, and present it in class — without carrying a disk around and worrying about system compatibility or data back-up.

IITS (Instructional and Information Technology Services) intends to develop a disk subscription service to make shared drives available at venues throughout the university, as well as accessible from off campus. It’s part of a technological revolution that will benefit every student.

IITS, the department responsible for computer and instructional support services at the university, has been upgrading classrooms at a furious pace.

More than 80 classrooms and public spaces around the campus have been enhanced with digital projectors, computers, video-cassette machines and sound systems. These rooms are now also capable of servicing wireless as well as conventional computers.

In fact, wireless access to the university network will soon be available not only from many classrooms (over 100) but in all public spaces as well: the library, the lobby of the McConnell Building, and the Hall Building mezzanine and lobby, just to mention a few.

The project started over the summer with the 60 largest classrooms (50 students and more), and is currently being extended to smaller classrooms.

“We expect to have approximately 95 rooms wired and equipped with these new technologies by summer 2002,” said IITS director Andrew McAusland. “This would have happened a bit sooner, but increased enrolment and overwhelming space demands have made it very difficult to get access to spaces in order to perform the necessary work.”

When it became apparent late in August that more students than anticipated would be using the classrooms, the work had to be stepped up, and done at night and over the weekends when the classrooms were free.

“Work will be ongoing and as unobtrusive as possible until we have reached our goal,” McAusland promised.

Staff positions have been assigned to handle the maintenance and routine development of these new classrooms. “Technology such as this cannot just be left without attention, maintenance or upgrades.” (Information regarding these rooms and their use may be obtained from Loni Cornax, at 848-4064.)

In addition, the university is purchasing 50 wireless laptops for distribution within the library, and when the modalities are worked out, students will be able to take them out on loan.

Students will be able to do their research and work with these laptops, which will be equipped with wireless connectivity. The university is currently beginning discussions on a program aimed at providing wireless laptops to all students who wish to have one for their studies.

Equipment depots at both campuses are being upgraded, including the addition of 10 portable data projectors, about 30 new overhead projectors, half a dozen laptops, screens, cameras and other equipment.

“IITS is committed to the continued renewal of all the equipment in the depots,” McAusland said. “This stock provides the backbone to teaching in the university.

“By the end of the spring term, almost all of the primary space in the university will have increased network capacity. We are currently completing an upgrade to gigabyte capacity, making network activity and access much faster.

“This has been done, for the most part, to support research and new media delivery technologies for the classroom and beyond — video streaming, video conferencing and online group work, for example.”

The multimedia kiosk project currently in development will greatly increase the points of information access in the university. “These kiosks will be quite different and modern in design, with two screens and interactive keyboards,” McAusland said.

Students will be able to access a full array of services and information using multimedia interfaces from many locations — the McConnell Building, the Hall Building and the GM Building — with plans to put two more units on the Loyola campus in the near future. These kiosks should be up and running by late spring of next year.

The Faculty of Fine Arts is currently planning to assume the responsibilities of both the Media Labs and Visual Media Resources from IITS. These facilities would devolve to the Faculty complete with equipment, current facilities and accompanying space. This includes significant space on the third floor of the Hall Building, the TV studio in the hall basement, the Loyola sound studio, the equipment depot in the VA building and other miscellaneous equipment and space.

This move, if realized, will create a more effective media unit catering to the special needs of the Faculty of Fine Arts, McAusland said.

“This move represents a natural devolvement given that the Faculty of Fine Arts are the primary users of these services as they are currently constituted.

“IITS is committed to maintaining a general access multimedia production environment to serve the small number of faculty and students who require access to a multipurpose production facility. This facility will enable students to produce multimedia presentations related to classroom work.”