Technology varies by classroom

When it comes to technology on campus, all classrooms are not created equal.Departmental needs and budgets, along with the age of buildings and equipment, affect the technological resources available to students and teachers in the classroom.

Ben Tillman, assistant professor of geography, said he has taught classes in both Smith Entrepreneurs Hall and Reed Hall.

He said technology is better in Smith Hall because it has a computer in each classroom, document cameras instead of overhead projectors and touchscreens that allow the professor to switch quickly between teaching aides.

Tillman said when he had a computer problem while teaching in Smith Hall, he learned that the quality of technical support is much better in that building.

“About five minutes before class started, I called someone up, and the tech person showed up and fixed it, so I could still use it for that class,” Tillman said. “If that would have been Reed (Hall) , then I would have had to go to overheads or write on the chalkboard.”

Cliff Overton, manager of classroom support services, said his department, Instructional Services, responds to the technical needs of all campus academic buildings except for those in the School of Business, which is serviced by its own support system.

He said Reed Hall is probably the heaviest-booked building on campus, making it hard to find time to address problems.

“Problems in Reed are fixed as soon as possible based upon classroom schedule,” he said. “We can’t ask a class not to meet so that we can change a bulb.”

Overton said minor repairs can sometimes be done between classes, but diagnosing and correcting some problems can take hours.

Chuck Miller, director of technology for the School of Business, manages classroom support in Dan Rogers Hall, Tandy Hall and Smith Hall.

He said the business school asked the university for funds to set up its own technical support system several years ago because, at the time, Instructional Services did not have the same resources as it does now and could not adequately care for the school’s advanced technology.

He said the business buildings do not experience the same space shortages that Reed Hall does.

“If I had a projector go out right now – if there was a break – we’d probably move them to another room because we have so many classrooms,” Miller said. “It’s easier for the professors to just move over to another room than for us to disrupt them and start trying to fix anything.”

David Bedford, instructor of Spanish, said he has experienced minor problems with equipment in Reed Hall, but the technology there exceeds his needs given the nature of what he teaches.

“I think it’s unusually good given the age of the building,” Bedford said. “For me, it’s been more than adequate.”

Bill Moncrief, senior associate dean for the School of Business and professor of marketing, said the school needs to have relevant technology to keep up with the fast-paced culture of business and other top-tier business schools.

“The technology is obviously, in today’s world – today’s business world even more so – we just got to have it,” Moncrief said. “Business is run through technology.”

Ken Morgan, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering, said properly educating students in his college similarly requires up-to-date technology.

“The nice thing about TCU and our college is we have been able to meet the challenge of having modern classroom instruction,” Morgan said.

He said the college underwent a renovation project for the last three years to update technology in classrooms and laboratories in the science buildings, which include Winton-Scott Hall, Sid Richardson Building, Tucker Technology Center and portions of Bass Building.

Morgan praised Instructional Services.

“I would give them excellent remarks in response and trying to work with us,” Morgan said. “I have had them come in as I’m lecturing – fix it so that I can get right on to it during my lecture and catch up.

“If you say, ‘I’m in the middle of something,’ they’ll come over.”

TCU assistant treasurer Dick Hoban said the deans of the different colleges submit a budget to the provost every year.

“Schools and colleges, when they submit their budgets, have different budget lines – some of which might contain different technology dollars,” Hoban said.

Certain departments have field-specific technology, such as radio-TV-film, said Professor Richard Allen, department chairman.

Allen said radio-TV-film has two engineers that care for specialized equipment exclusively used by the department.

Allen said requests to fill routine technology needs go through the dean, but a department can apply directly to TCU for funds to support special needs.

“For years we were trying to get digital technology, and finally – this was a few years ago when Bill Koehler was still the provost – but he realized the importance of digital technology,” Allen said.

“We got about three-quarters of a million dollars or something — I wasn’t the chair at the time, but a large figure – to renovate the studios so that they would completely be digital.”

Gerald Gabel, associate professor of music and division chairman for composition and technology, said TCU decided what compact disc players, turntables, video and digital video disc players would outfit classrooms in the School of Music without consulting anyone from the school.

“The system they have them running through is a little clumsy for us to deal with in an efficient manor,” Gabel said.

He said most students and teachers in the School of Music use Macintosh computers.

“They only have one person who services Macintoshes, so an increase there wouldn’t hurt.”

Overton said the problem with technology in Reed Hall does not lie with the quality of Instructional Services.

“The technology that is there is standard relay technology,” Overton said. “The problem with it is it’s just outdated.

“The technology in Reed Hall is four-and-a-half years old, whereas the technology in Smith is less than a year old.”

Overton said the older technology cannot be expected to perform as well, but to bring Reed Hall up to the level of Smith Hall would cost $6,000 to $7,000 per classroom.

Pamela Hughes, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs, said some buildings have more pressing needs than technological upgrades.

“There’s so much to consider in the budget,” Hughes said. “It doesn’t do much good to bring the classrooms up-to-date in technology if the building is falling down around your ears.”

Miller said other colleges and schools on campus are beginning to implement improvements similar to those in the business school.

“I think – from the university as a whole … as I visit the other buildings – I see a lot of the things that we’ve implemented being implemented everywhere, so I think that’s a positive campuswide.”

Miller said the School of Business will probably begin updating technology again in three or four years.

“The technology, it changes slowly, but nothing drastic,” Miller said. “We’re not looking at any major upgrades in the near future.”

Hughes said experts have put together a plan to update different parts of TCU systematically.

Bedford said he is excited by the new plans for campus, but Reed Hall is not in desperate need of change.

“I’m looking forward to some new facilities in a few years,” Bedford said. “Meanwhile, I’m satisfied with the technology here.