Expansion of Video Conferencing facilities at NWU

Project Description

The updated request was initiated by Hennie Esterhuizen on 21 Jan 2019.

This Request follows on a previous project named Expansion of Video Conference Facilities at NWU (2016), based on a process started in 2014. This project was recalled.

The reasons for recalling the previous project are:

  • Change of scope of the project
  • Change of financing resources for the project
  • Substantial changes in expected duration of the project
  • Changes in typical equipment recommended for specific sized installations

Changes in emphasis of types of venues still to be equipped — a new list of priority installations was approved by UMC and funded in 2018.

eConferencing has grown from a niche service three years ago to a full blown service used 44 times per day on average. Without a good support strategy and the implementation of best practices, it will be a failure

Documents

Project Progress

70%

Project Timing

  • Start
    Jan 21 2019
  • End
    Dec 18 2020

01/21/2019 12/18/2020

87%

Overall Project Completion

  • 20%
  • 60%

70%

  • 40%
  • 80%

Project Discussion 5 Responses to Expansion of Video Conferencing facilities at NWU

  1. This project “Expansion of Video Conferencing facilities at NWU” might again have to be reconsidered in the light of the following:

    A major reason for physically installed video conferencing venues used to be that many staff responsible for chairing or participating in meetings did not have the skills to successfully connect to meetings using their own information technology equipment. After such venues were installed, many of these venues still needed competent IT staff to utilise. Numerous meetings simply could not get underway successfully, until someone with technological fluency was sent to the venue to operate the equipment, usually resulting in meetings starting late or having to be rescheduled. Having an installed videoconferencing venue in a department transferred the blame for unsuccessfully utilising videoconferencing to the installers and maintainers of the equipment.

    Covid-19 changed all this. The change in videoconferencing requirements of the university after a new normal after Covid-19 might involve the following:
    (a) Much of the requirements for urgently installing video conferencing venues are no longer top priority since during 2020 NWU staff members and external participants to NWU meetings have acquired sufficient digital fluency to successfully participate in meetings from wherever they are. It would not be unreasonable anymore to expect NWU staff to participate in virtual face-to-face meetings from their laptops, whether they continue to do it from home or NWU offices on one of the NWU campuses.
    (b) The skills required to successfully participate in videoconferencing will remain essential for administrative meetings with other NWU staff and external participants but are also essential to be able to connect with students in a post-COVID-19 world — for administrative as well as for educational purposes.
    (c) It might be more responsible to spend university funding on equipping lecturing venues and laboratories to enable connecting classrooms to other classrooms and laboratories, as well as to individually connected remote students and external academics.
    My experience regarding installed video conferencing venues and connected classrooms emphasise the following factors to consider in future installations:
    1. Initially, the IT support model for videoconferencing expected departments to allocate responsibility for successful videoconferencing to staff members within departments supposedly cultivating skills in videoconferencing as videoconferencing coordinators. With a small number of exceptions, such as at the office of the Dean of Health Sciences on Potchefstroom campus, this did not materialise. Successfully utilising equipped venues for videoconferencing requires experienced support staff from NWU-IT to be permanently available as monitoring staff, having remote desktop access to equipment.
    2. Documentation containing preferred practices, including arranging support for important meetings and testing equipment twenty-four hours before meetings; keeping all participants’ microphones muted when not speaking, and speaking at arm’s length or closer to microphones, were not heeded for a long time. When remote participation to meetings became the norm after the initial COVID-19 lockdown, many of these recommendations were heeded, especially after chairpersons such as the Registrar started enforcing it.
    3. Installed video conferencing venues that were less successful in optimal speech intelligibility performance were especially those where clients insisted that furniture should not be fixed, to enable continuous repurposing the venue layout by moving around tables and chairs. Especially in venues where reverberation is excessive and acoustical properties in terms of background noise did not conform to SANS 10103 requirements for educational buildings, using ceiling-mounted microphone arrays did not provide acceptable speech intelligibility.
    4. Venues where fixed microphones on goosenecks were installed at close proximity of pairs of two participants, and limiting the number of open microphones per venue to a maximum of one for the chairperson and one additional participant, resulted in excellent speech intelligibility. It also enabled cameras to zoom in to the person speaking and managing the order of meetings much more efficiently. Where it was possible to install proper audio processing and updating the firmware of the Shure DIS systems initially after installation, these installations performed flawlessly. However, a number of these installations were performed by external contractors, where the recommended firmware updates and applicable software installation in the audio processing equipment were not implemented. Experience over the last few years indicated that unreliable performance of equipment was prominent where low cost powered loudspeakers were installed relying on remote controls for adjustment of sound level and tone settings. It was not possible to know at what level loudspeaker settings were since there were no physical volume controls with visible setting indicators. Audio settings were arbitrary, and often videoconferencing meetings failed to establish two-way communication because sound systems in installed venues were dead as a result of wireless remote controls having been accidentally adjusted to zero. In some instances, loudspeakers also provided poor connection, using miniature 3.5mm stereo plugs inappropriately wired by contractors. It is recommended that powered loudspeakers with balanced audio connections be used with XLR connectors to address earth-loop noise. Installers must understand that headphone output sockets cannot be wired into balanced inputs, since mono audio cancels out signals appearing on the left and right terminals. Several installed venues were non-functional after contractors finished installations and handovers were concluded. It required the intervention of videoconference monitor staff to re-arrange installation wiring and software before videoconferencing could function in those venues.
    5. It is recommended that an electronic installation quality check-list be implemented before sign-off when the handover of an installed equipment venue takes place. Such a list should include measured signal-to-noise levels, close-talking audio distortion tests to verify proper headroom specifications and the optimal speech-spectrum response of installed audio systems. Excessive low-frequency response in speech system installations aggravates common dominance in low-frequency room reverberation, resulting in reduced speech intelligibility.
    It is possible that fewer purposely-installed video conferencing venues will be needed at the university, and that meetings could in future be conducted using Microsoft Teams, especially if mind shifts to the new way of reduced email and document attachment environments characteristic of this solution become the norm, and are adopted by a digitally transformed workforce.

    In any case, the details, scope and expectations of this project may have to be re-evaluated in 2021.

    August 17, 2020 at 1:03 pm
    HENNIE ESTERHUIZEN
  2. Tinus Steenkamp at NWU Electronic Services reports that new requests for videoconferencing installations are received continuously. NWU Electronic Services continue to install new videoconferencing venues at a rate of approximately eight installations per month.
    No up-to-date list of installed venues across NWU campuses is available at the moment.

    February 21, 2020 at 3:33 pm
    HENNIE ESTERHUIZEN
  3. The next list indicates the venues fitted with E-conference during 2019 sponsored by the central budget allocated to the E-conference project.
    Projects executed from main E-Conference budget Budgeted for 2019
    Vaal Building 13, Library R 275 000.00
    PC Building F1 Council Chamber R 400 000.00
    Vaal Building 4 Room V04-217 R 330 000.00
    Vaal Building 4 Room V04-R108 R 330 000.00
    Total for 2019 R1 335 000.00

    Projects executed from main E-Conference budget Budgeted for 2019
    Vaal New Buildings in planning – One Large room R 400 000.00
    Vaal New Buildings in planning – Council chamber R 550 000.00

    Total for 2019 R 950 000.00

    Up-to-date (13 September 2019) lists of completed installations are not available.
    From the Vidyo Admin Console:
    The following virtual rooms had been created by 13 September 2019.
    More effort will soon be applied to filter according to date.
    m-a1-129 M-NWU Building A1 Room 129
    m-a1-131f M-NWU Building A1 Room 131F
    m-a1-141 M-NWU Building A1 Room 141
    m-a14-101 M-NWU Building A1 Room 141
    m-a1-201 M-NWU Building A1 Room 201
    m-a1-216 M-NWU Building A1 Room 216
    m-a1-218 M-NWU Building A1 Room 218
    m-a13-g22 M-NWU Building A13 Room G22
    m-a14-121 M-NWU Building A14 Room 121
    m-a2-g04 M-NWU Building A2 Room G04
    m-a2-g38 M-NWU Building A2 Room G38
    m-a2g-g190 M-NWU Building A2G Room G190
    m-a3-243 M-NWU Building A3 Room 243
    m-a3-d192 M-NWU Building A3 Room D192
    m-a3a-g34 M-NWU Building A3A Room G34
    m-a3c-175 M-NWU Building A3C Room 175
    m-a3d-190 M-NWU Building A3D Room 190
    m-a3d-g02 M-NWU Building A3D Room G02
    m-a3d-g87 M-NWU Building A3D Room G87
    m-a3f-g11 M-NWU Building A3F Room G11
    m-a4-2059 M-NWU Building A4 Room 2059
    m-a4-2125 M-NWU Building A4 Room 2125
    m-a5-106 M-NWU Building A5 Room 106
    m-a7-g01 M-NWU Building A7 Room G01
    m-a9-115 M-NWU Building A9 Room 115
    m-bs-105 M-NWU Building BS Room 105
    m-c1-g4 M-NWU Building C1 Room G4
    m-d3-g05 M-NWU Building D3 Room G05
    m-f3-2_7 M-NWU Building F3 Room 2.7

    p-c5-g02 P-C5-G02
    p-c5-g03 P-C5-G03
    p-g4-g09 P-LAB-G4-G09
    p-a3b-g14 P-NWU Building A3B Room G14
    p-b10-g01 P-NWU Building B10 Room G01
    p-b10-g09 P-NWU Building B10 Room G09
    p-b11a-103 P-NWU Building B11A Room 103
    p-b11a-108 P-NWU Building B11A Room 108
    p-b11a-119 P-NWU Building B11A Room 119
    p-b11a-120 P-NWU Building B11A Room 120
    p-b11a-123 P-NWU Building B11A Room 123
    p-b11a-131 P-NWU Building B11A Room 131
    p-b11a-g02 P-NWU Building B11A Room G02
    p-b11a-g07 P-NWU Building B11A Room G07
    p-b11a-g13 P-NWU Building B11A Room G13
    p-b11a-g14 P-NWU Building B11A Room G14
    p-b11a-g18 P-NWU Building B11A Room G18
    p-c6-113 P-NWU Building C6 Room 113
    p-c6-299e P-NWU Building C6 Room 299E
    p-c6-g11 P-NWU Building C6 Room G11
    p-c6-g49 P-NWU Building C6 Room G49
    p-d1-305 P-NWU Building D1 Room 305
    p-d1-321 P-NWU Building D1 Room 321
    p-e3-117 P-NWU Building E3 Room 117
    p-e3-124 P-NWU Building E3 Room 124
    p-e3-218 P-NWU Building E3 Room 218
    p-e3-g28 P-NWU Building E3 Room G28
    p-e3-261 P-NWU Building E3 Toyota Room
    p-e3-138 P-NWU Building E3 TRADE Conference
    p-e3-140 P-NWU Building E3 TRADE Library
    p-e4-g02 P-NWU Building E4 Room G02
    p-e4-g39 P-NWU Building E4 Room G39
    p-e7-111 P-NWU Building E7 Room 111
    p-e7-317 P-NWU Building E7 Room 317 (NWU)
    p-e8-k32b P-NWU Building E8 Rom K32B
    e8-127 P-NWU Building E8 Room 127
    p-e8-139 P-NWU Building E8 Room 139
    p-e8-224 P-NWU Building E8 Room 224
    p-e8-g19 P-NWU Building E8 Room G19
    p-e8-g35 P-NWU Building E8 Room G35
    p-e8-k19 P-NWU Building E8 Room K19
    p-e9-210 P-NWU Building E9 Room 210
    p-f1-106 P-NWU Building F1 Room 106
    p-f1-133 P-NWU Building F1 Room 133
    p-f1-142 P-NWU Building F1 Room 142
    p-f1-159 P-NWU Building F1 Room 159
    p-f1-201 P-NWU Building F1 Room 201
    p-f1-234 P-NWU Building F1 Room 234
    p-f17-g15 P-NWU Building F17 Room G15
    p-f20-107 P-NWU Building F20 Room 107 (NWU)
    p-f21-g19 P-NWU Building F21 Room G19
    p-f25-g16 P-NWU Building F25 Room G16
    p-f25-g17 P-NWU Building F25 Room G17
    p-f4-g06 P-NWU Building F4 Room G06
    p-f5-120 P-NWU Building F5 Room 120 (NWU)
    p-f5-g13 P-NWU Building F5 Room G13
    p-g1-113 P-NWU Building G1 Room 113
    p-g1-117 P-NWU Building G1 Room 117
    p-g11b-g06 P-NWU Building G11B Room G06
    p-g15b-103 P-NWU Building G15B Room 103
    p-g16-233 P-NWU Building G16 Room 233 (NWU)
    p-g23-216 P-NWU Building G23 Room 216
    p-g23a-103 P-NWU Building G23A Room 103
    p-g3-122 P-NWU Building G3 Room 122
    p-g3-218 P-NWU Building G3 Room 218
    p-g3-g15 P-NWU Building G3 Room G15
    p-g5-g07 P-NWU Building G5 Room G07
    p-g5-g13 P-NWU Building G5 Room G13
    p-k22-g12 P-NWU Building K22 Room G12 (NWU)
    p-k23-g06 P-NWU Building K23 Room G06
    p-n1-g41 P-NWU Building N1 Room G41
    p-c1-240 P-NWU C1 240
    p-c1-c135 P-NWU Control Room C1-135
    p-c1-220 P-NWU CTL-TLE
    p-g16-234a P-NWU Dean Health Sciences
    p-f1-114 P-NWU DVC Operations
    p-g16-101 P-NWU G16 101
    p-g23a-202 P-NWU-Building G23A Room 202
    p-k23-204 P-NWU-Building K23 Room 204

    v-24-g28b V-NWU 24 Executive Boardroom
    v-11b-123 V-NWU Building 11B Room 123
    v-11b-g21 V-NWU Building 11B Room G21
    v-12-g01 V-NWU Building 12 Room G01
    v-13-lib V-NWU Building 13 Library
    v-13-306 V-NWU Building 13 Room 306
    v-24-g21 V-NWU Building 24 Room G21
    v-4-108 V-NWU Building 4 Room 108
    v-7-108 V-NWU Building 7 Room 108
    v-7-118 V-NWU Building 7 Room 118
    v-7-119 V-NWU Building 7 Room 119
    v-7-g21 V-NWU Building 7 Room G21
    v-8-101 V-NWU Building 8 Room 101
    v-8-117 V-NWU Building 8 Room 117
    v-8-g09 V-NWU Building 8 Room G09
    vaal V-NWU Campus

    September 13, 2019 at 4:25 pm
    HENNIE ESTERHUIZEN
  4. This project starts with the intention to install videoconferencing facilities in the venues prioritised by the UMC:
    MAFIKENG Building A7, Room G6 Library
    VAAL Building 24, Council Chamber
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building F1, Council Chamber
    MAFIKENG Building A3A, Room 243/344, Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, Dean boardroom
    MAFIKENG Building A2G, Room G190, Faculty of Education and Training, Dean boardroom
    VAAL Building 13, Library
    VAAL Building 4, Boardroom
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building C1, Room 211A
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building C1, Room 135
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building D1, Room 305
    Of these, installation in the following venues have been completed:
    VAAL Building 24, Council Chamber
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building C1, Room 211A
    POTCHEFSTROOM Building D1, Room 305
    Most of the work in POTCHEFSTROOM Building C1, Room 135 is completed. Some of the equipment is in operation, but considered as part of a Proof-of-Concept. This involves ongoing evaluation of the suitability of the NEETS controller, configuration of networked Audio Visual (AV) equipment and the implementation of the GSM mobile phone interface. The latter awaits provision of a suitable mobile contract and SIM card by the venue clients. Further aspects of improved fault-finding facilities during high profile meetings involve the development of a custom designed audio monitoring facility with access to intermediate audio terminations within the total audio path, accessible by the to-be-appointed Videoconferencing Coordinator for the Secretariat.
    Some installations have been contracted out to external installers, as a result of insufficient capacity at NWU-IT Electrical and Electronic Services.

    May 20, 2019 at 4:19 pm
    HENNIE ESTERHUIZEN
  5. 22 Jan 2019: The project was approved.

    The implementation of a local Vidyo router will have to receive urgent attention. Hennie will initialise the discussions and investigation.

    January 22, 2019 at 11:32 am
    YVETTE LABUSCHAGNE

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