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W&M IT makes upgrades to cable, classroom tech

  • Classroom technology:
    Classroom technology:  Upgraded touchscreen panels with AirMedia are now available in 56 campus classrooms.  Photo courtesy of W&M Information Technology
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This winter break was particularly busy for Information Technology at William & Mary.

Not only were IT professionals performing the usual equipment maintenance and system updates, they were also implementing some highly-visible upgrades.

“We expect that the campus community will be pleased with the upgrades we made during the break,” said W&M IT Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter. “They will enhance both work and play. Students and faculty alike will enjoy them.”

Cable TV goes digital

The W&M cable TV system switched from an analog signal to a digital signal on Jan. 5. With the change come new features like high-definition programming and an expanded channel lineup, going from 72 channels to 116. Of the new channels, 84 will be HD channels. The new digital channel line-up may be found online.

Clear quadrature amplitude modulation (also known as Clear QAM) television tuners are needed to receive digital cable service. Most flat screen TVs made after 2007 already have QAM tuners installed and will work on the new digital system — after the TV has been reprogrammed. However, some generally older televisions will need an external Clear QAM tuner, which can be purchased separately, to function.  More details about digital cable TV requirements may be found on the IT website.

Contour: Watch cable TV from any device

As part of the TV upgrades, W&M IT was able to negotiate a new service from Cox called Contour. Contour allows live Cable TV to stream to computers, phones and tablets.

“Contour is a game changer,” Carpenter said. “Most students would prefer to watch cable television from their mobile devices anyway.”

The network infrastructure for Contour is currently under development. Contour will become available to W&M students, faculty and staff while on the W&M campus during the spring 2017 semester.

Upgraded classroom tech equipment

More than half of the classrooms on the W&M campus, 56 of them to be exact, got an equipment upgrade. New touchscreen control panels replaced older button versions, and the routing switchers behind them were also upgraded.

AirMedia is a new feature included with the recently installed, upgraded panels. AirMedia allows anyone in the room to wirelessly share the screen of their notebook, phone or tablet to the classroom projector system. That means a professor could jump quickly between different devices during a lecture, such as going between a presentation on a laptop and a demonstration on an iPad. Or a student could share his or her own laptop screen with the entire class from their seat, without having to plug in to wires from the classroom podium.

The AirMedia and touchscreen panel upgrades took place in Morton Hall, James Blair Hall, Tucker Hall, Blow Hall and the School of Education. Upgrades to projectors, which allow for brighter screen images, were made in Small Hall 110 and 111, as well as Andrews Hall 101. The James Blair Hall classroom projectors were also upgraded earlier last semester.

In addition to the equipment upgrades, an enhanced remote monitoring system was also installed in classrooms. This will allow IT’s classroom support team to troubleshoot problems with AV equipment in a quicker and more efficient manner.

Wireless network upgrade completion
An upgrade to the wireless network is coming to completion. Beginning in early 2016, the project entailed upgrading all wireless equipment throughout the entire campus, creating more effective configurations of that equipment and upgrading the wireless protocol. Network engineers used the winter break to do some of the final and most complicated installations of the wireless access points.