How to build an effective and trusted audiovisual team

Audiovisual technology was an instrumental part of the COVID transition
Mike Pedersen, Iowa State University
Mike Pedersen, Iowa State University

In March 2020, when university administrations were starting to grasp the brutal realities of COVID-19, one of the many challenges they were facing was how to move their entire class schedules online.

Audiovisual technology was an instrumental part of that transition, and they were looking to the audiovisual professionals in their organizations for help to get online.

Looking forward, having quality AV technology for presentation both in-person and to remote students has never been more important. One key to success will be to have a certified audiovisual team on staff.

Building the team

When considering an audiovisual team, it is important to consider what functions the team provides. First and foremost, they must support existing AV technology.

This includes both preventative maintenance, such as proactive classroom functionality checks, as well as “break-fix” activities where incidents with non-functional AV equipment are resolved.

An AV problem during an active class session needs to be resolved quickly. It is prudent to consider a service-level expectation that includes a time to respond. At my institution, the AV technician is expected to arrive to a classroom within 10 minutes of being paged by our help desk.

Another potential function or service that an audiovisual technology team can provide is the installation of new AV equipment. Audiovisual equipment has an expected lifespan in terms of both reliability and changing technology needs. Most experts would recommend a five to seven years refresh cycle.

AV upgrades need to be an ongoing activity with a defined budget. In addition, there is usually a certain amount of new construction and building renovation occurring on campuses.

This new construction very often includes AV technology installations. These installations may include new learning spaces, conference rooms, digital signage, athletic facilities, residence halls, and dining and retail spaces.

Advantages of an in-house team

There are significant benefits of using an in-house audiovisual team. A dedicated team can create and maintain consistency in AV systems, especially the look and operation of the control panels and interfaces used to operate the AV system. The ability to walk into any room on campus and have confidence in how to operate the AV equipment lowers stress among the users.

In addition, using an in-house AV team for incident response and at smaller installations can often provide a significant financial savings over using outside contractors.

Even with all these benefits, it is often impractical to hire enough university staff to handle the needs for larger projects or during peak seasons such as summer break when classroom upgrades are most often accomplished, so it makes sense to use outside contractors to supplement during those times. Overall, having a correctly sized team of AV in-house integrators will be a significant asset for most institutions.

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I recommend hiring individuals who hold a certified technology specialist (CTS) credential as in-house AV staff. The ANSI-accredited certifications from the Audiovisual Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA) are designed to demonstrate competency in the full range of audiovisual skills and concepts.

Certification ensures all team members have a common terminology and knowledge core that assists with communication within the team. Even if it’s not possible to hire a certified team member, it should be a key part of the staff development plan with a time-constrained goal to achieving a fully certified staff.

In addition, making CTS a preference in the hiring process can help ensure candidates have shown a desire to truly be an audiovisual professional who can make an immediate positive impact on your staff.

Trusting the technology

A dedicated team of skilled audiovisual professionals can provide significant value and benefits to any college or university. They can provide the required fast response time for classroom AV issues which provides faculty and students with trust in the technology and a consistent classroom experience.

The AV team can also serve as dedicated in-house integrators, providing a core level of AV installation capability and ensuring the AV solutions are standardized and have a common look and feel. Certifications, such as AVIXA’s CTS, give the administration confidence that the AV solutions are being installed and supported within established industry best practices.

I would encourage every higher education institution to evaluate their own internal audiovisual capabilities and consider if there are opportunities to build up a team that can provide the AV support that can maximize the success of your faculty and students.

Mike Pedersen is the audiovisual experience manager at Iowa State University.

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