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Brave New Classroom


By Mike Carlson

Published Jan 1, 2009 8:00 AM

Illustration by Adam McCauley.

Only in Los Angeles would a graduate school classroom have more screen space than your neighborhood Laemmle's. But this isn't just any classroom. This is a classroom George Jetson's kids would recognize.

Welcome to the Jim Easton Global Connection Classroom at UCLA Anderson School of Management, the final product of a team of design team members, consultants, project managers and IT staff. Although the future will have to wait a bit — the classroom won't go online for about two years — this center of cutting-edge teaching technology will house a mind-boggling array of gadgetry.

Made possible by a $2 million gift from sporting goods manufacturer and UCLA Anderson Board of Visitors member Jim Easton '59, the classroom-of-the-near-future features two ceiling-mounted front projectors, each providing 133 diagonal inches produced on retractable screens. They are flanked by two 65-inch LCD screens perched on each side of the classroom. A rear-mounted projector produces a 106-inch image. And a digital touch screen at the front podium will allow lecturing professors to mark up presentation slides on the fly.

The physical capacity of the room allows for up to 60 students, but its broadcast capabilities can bring in scores more virtual pupils studying from a remote location. Three cameras, manned by an operator in a control room, capture both the lecturer and the students.

"It also allows the class to be recorded and placed on a web-server for later viewings," says Gabriel Ruiz, server manager at Anderson Computing and Information Services and a member of the information technology team that chose the hardware for the room. "In case a student missed the class they can view it, or if they were there they can review it at a later point."

Anyone who has ever bought a computer knows that you only own the latest and greatest machine until Steve Jobs holds a press conference. So Ruiz and his fellow architects of the classroom know that theirs is an ongoing effort.

"There is always a challenge with technology moving so quickly," says Ruiz. "We try to factor that in and incorporate as much foresight as possible."

Ruiz and his team did their best to stay ahead of the curve by making educated guesses, such as foregoing the common 4:3 aspect ratio projectors for more advanced widescreen versions. And the LCD screens are mounted on universal brackets, making their removal and replacement a minimally invasive affair. "There is a modularity that is factored in that allows us to replace a certain component, to either update it or repair it," he notes.

The classroom has had "several iterations since the Anderson school was opened," concludes Michael Heafey '75, general manager, Anderson Complex and Events. "This is the best iteration of the space."



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