When general purpose classrooms in Carlson School of Management needed renovation, the updated equipment and maintenance was provided by Classroom Technical Services (CTS). When the Science Teaching & Student Services (STSS) building was in development, CTS created the technology design and installed the Active Learning Classrooms (ALC), featuring student-centered, integrated, active-learning spaces. When thousands of hoodie-wearing marchers rallied in support of Trayvon Martin through Northrop Plaza on March 29, the microphones and other equipment used to make the event a success were provided by CTS.
If you've ever requested audio visual and classroom technology services, chances are one of the 19 employees in CTS has helped you. Shortly after the Office of Classroom Management (OCM) was formed in 2000, CTS (formerly called Media Resources Engineering) made the move to Academic Support Resources.
Though other universities and colleges have similar departments, CTS has one of the largest in the United States. Their work has been highlighted in various national magazines, including AVTechnology in 2008 and Architecture Minnesota in 2011.
CTS provides classroom technology for departments and colleges on the Twin Cities and coordinate campuses. They also install, design, and program presentation technology and produce digital signage for all campuses. The CTS Event Services unit also provides technician support and rents equipment for events on the Twin Cities campus and surrounding areas.
CTS is a unique unit amongst ASR units because it functions as an Internal Service Organization (ISO) that charges fees for its services and receives no funding from the University. As a result, all their costs must be covered by revenue produced through the technical services they provide.
"It's a challenge maintaining the budget and keeping up with current technology," said Larry Gilbertson, production manager. "We feel intense pressure to generate sales. If there are no sales, it leads to layoffs."
As a result of its ISO status, Engineering Manager Ray Troyer says the close-knit staff are very interdependent on each other as their workload continues to expand. "We have maintained the same amount of staff we had when we were doing half of our current workload," Ray said.
There is no other organization on campus that provides similar services as CTS, but there is competition with external vendors. "We have a leg-up on external vendors because we can respond faster since we're on campus already," Larry said. "Customer service is critical for our survival."
CTS works with individual customer departments and University project managers on a regular basis to implement presentation technology, spreading into all locations on campus from large lecture halls to small conference rooms and even the Regents Boardroom. Providing faculty and staff with a reliable system that is easy to use and maintain is paramount to CTS success.
CTS provides technology to all OCM classrooms, as well as other instructional spaces, video conference, and meeting rooms, totaling around 750 spaces. OCM is the biggest client as well as their parent department.
"I'm proud of the fact that what we do enhances learning for students," Ray said.
Once the equipment is provided to the client, CTS also offers preventative maintenance on the system. OCM monitors the condition of classroom technology using the Classroom Automated Monitoring System (CAMS). These connect to a monitoring station in 160 Williamson Hall that are viewed throughout the day in case an error occurs with any system. This monitoring system also prevents theft of equipment. In 2011, most of the general purpose classrooms were monitored by CAMS.
Classroom Technical Services Staff:
Larry Gilbertson, production manager
Ray Troyer, engineering manager
Wanda Marsolek, audiovisual operations manager
Zak Manuszak, business manager
Mike Leech, senior engineer
Charles Bottemiller, senior engineer
Jim Fisk, engineer
Jason Knutson, associate engineer
David Silvernale, inventory control specialist
Joel Westacott, events technician
Darren Tolson, presentation technology installer
Chris Bray, presentation technology installer
David Swanson, presentation technology installer
Diego Garcia, presentation technology installer
Jade Woltman, IT support tech
Eric Topping, technical services representative
June Ursel, accountant
Regan Mock-Nelson, purchasing agent
Rita Rocheford, delivery service driver
Tell me more about some of your more memorable installations or clients.
Some of the larger projects that we have done include:
Audiovisual systems in Science Teaching & Student Services
- General purpose classrooms in Hanson Hall
- General purpose classroom renovations in Carlson School of Management
- Audiovisual systems in the Nicholson Hall renovation
- The additions to the McNamara Alumni Center (including remodeling some of the original spaces)
- The ITV systems installed in the old Sostanza area of Moos Tower for Academic Health Center
- The Dentistry Simulation Lab on the 4th floor of Moos Tower
How do you enhance the learning environment for students?
The simplest answer is to make the systems easy to use. In general, if you know how to operate any given classroom, you can easily learn to operate them all. This lessens the burden on the instructor. System reliability (in the design and in the method of installation) and the way the classrooms are monitored (which helps reduce downtime), mean the systems are ready for use.