Resident computers are provided in teaching spaces to give access to and presentation of digital resources including prepared presentations, web sites, images, videos, software and other texts. A resident computer should provide a standard operating environment with access to internet and network resources, portable storage and an agreed standard catalogue of software, including those required for remote support from a Helpdesk.
A DVD or Blu-ray Disc Drive can be provided to allow for playback of video material stored on optical disc formats (DVD/BD). Other recommended accessories include:
wired keyboard and mouse for presenter use
touchscreen monitor or interactive pen display for live annotation (consider integrating display into AV system for preview/confidence of all video sources)
wireless mouse or presenter remote for PowerPoint control
presentation capture software (captures PC output only)
Personal Response Systems (PRS) voting software
Remote access software for user support
Many presenters prefer to present from their own personal devices. To achieve this, a means to present from personal laptops and other devices will need to be provided. A secured HDMI cable can be used to enable this functionality for laptops with a standard HDMI output, as well as provide system redundancy for other AV sources. At present HDMI is still the most ubiquitous device output and allows connection of other AV devices such as portable DVD, document cameras and specialist scientific devices, if required on an ad-hoc basis.
To provide compatibility with other user devices (e.g. tablets, phones) it will either need to be stipulated that users bring their own dongles, or a predefined selection should be made available for use. These can be provided on an ad-hoc basis by a customer-facing service point, or as a set of adapters secured locally, with the HDMI cable.
HDCP (See section x) for the HDMI input will need to be off by default, in order to accommodate Apple devices and ensure they can be recorded and display content. However, the user interface for the HDMI input should provide the ability to engage HDCP compliance to allow the playback and display of copy-protected material.
USB-C is a digital standard that has recently emerged and is available on most new laptops as well as many tablets and phones. It can provide connection for digital AV signals, as well as functions such as data transfer, power and network, depending on the device it is connected to.
Consider allowing for a tethered, high quality USB-C to HDMI adapter in venues to leverage existing HDMI infrastructure whilst giving users an increased likelihood of compatible connection.
VGA is an analogue video standard that is no longer supported by new user devices and has become far less common with the advent of digital AV technologies. The AETM recommends the complete phase-out of VGA connections on new projects/digital refurbishments. Where it is unavoidable or required for a specific device, utilise a good quality ‘active’ VGA to HDMI converter from a reputable manufacturer.
Document cameras (also referred to as ‘visualisers’) can be used for presenting hard-copy documents and texts and demonstrating physical objects in full colour and high detail from a fixed position.
In larger venues they are often superior to whiteboards because they provide a simple means of displaying hand-written content with the entire audience, and the content can be recorded and shared remotely, system design permitting.
High quality PTZ cameras combined with whiteboards can be a good alternative option, however document cameras are almost always more cost effective. The use of stored presets in PTZ cameras can be of particular benefit where there is a need to capture multiple surfaces or include the image of the presenter demonstrating a concept.
As education and collaboration extend further into online forms of communication via lecture-capture and video conferencing, depending on pedagogical requirements teaching and meeting venues should be equipped with appropriate cameras. This allows the physical image of the presenter or participants to be displayed up on screen in very large venues, at the far-end, or for recording purposes. Cameras may be required for presenters, the audience, or both.
HD cameras used for software conferencing or recording applications will need to present to the computer as a USB video device.
Blu-Ray/DVD players can be provided to allow for simple playback of video material stored on common optical disc formats (Blu-Ray Disc and DVD) which is still a common way for libraries and resource departments to provide teaching content.
For DVD playback, optical players which are multi-region capable are essential, as often this content will not play on the computer’s optical device due to being blocked by region limitations. It’s worth noting that Blu-ray players have region limitations which prevent them playing discs purchased internationally, which often cannot be unlocked.
An alternative is to provide portable optical players to be used on an ad-hoc basis in venues, via the HDMI input. HDCP must also always be considered when taking this approach.
A variety of specialist equipment is used in a range of disciplines and it is sometimes necessary to incorporate interfaces for this equipment into teaching space presentation systems. Examples include microscopes, video cameras, medical imaging devices, signal generators and musical instruments.
A 3.5mm auxiliary audio input cable can be provided where a basic stereo input to an audio playback system is required. It has been useful in the past as the audio accompaniment to a video cable but is less used in education spaces since embedded audio on digital video has become ubiquitous.
3.5mm audio can be particularly useful in conference venues for background music, however, similarly to general teaching spaces, the resident computer is often able to provide such a function. A digital video input and an appropriate dongle can also allow the use of a personal device to playback audio.
Aim to include a 3.5mm auxiliary audio input in general use spaces, particularly in rooms which can be booked as casual study or clubs spaces. Also allow for a 3.5mm auxiliary audio input where either explicitly required or when the AV system infrastructure allows for simple and cost-effective inclusion.
Audio from the 3.5mm auxiliary audio input should be routed to the local sound system, hearing assistance system, recording system and remote sites (where present).
It is recommended to provide a auxiliary audio in/out connection, which could be a standard size single gang plate installed on the lectern or elsewhere (with convenient access).
Best practice is to allow for a balanced XLR input (switchable between mic/line level) in venues which have an audio system. Audio from this input should be routed via the DSP to accommodate all necessary functionality and considered in the control system design.
A balanced XLR output (line level) can also be useful and should be provided in any situation where an external AV provider may be integrating with the system (eg. a staging company hired to facilitate a conference, or where journalists may be covering an event). This output contains a mix of all audio sources for connection to an external recording device or additional audio reproduction equipment.