How to refresh your legacy AV system

Converting and updating an entire campus’ AV system is a sizable, but increasingly necessary, investment

It’s no secret to university CIOs: digital is here to stay. But with decades of investment in legacy AV equipment, keeping up with the latest digital technology infrastructure can be a real challenge. Converting and updating an entire campus’ AV system is a sizable, but increasingly necessary, investment requiring both time and resources.

“It became obvious to us a while back that our existing analog-based technology needed to be switched over at the back end,” says John Arpino, Assistant Director of Engineering Research and Development, at George Washington University. He oversaw GW’s $3 million, four-year conversion process. He will be sharing best practices from that experience in his UBTech 2014 session: “Going from analog to digital: How to make the switch, step-by-step.”

Arpino explains that in the near future, legacy analog hardware will no longer be able to convey the high-quality video content common in today’s university setting. Hardware manufacturers are phasing out dated analog VGA connectors, and digital content is often now embedded with security protocols that make it unreadable on a legacy device.

At GW, the push for change came from the engineering department when they saw legacy AV equipment being eclipsed by emerging tech standards. “When you need to holistically refresh all the technology in a classroom, it’s not something a typical operational budget can accommodate,” says Arpino. So Arpino and the engineering staff put together a memo outlining in plain language the technological imperatives. “We laid out what was happening in the industry, what negative outcomes the university could expect from failing to keep up, and what we could do to update our classrooms.”

At GW, they decided on a four-year process which spread costs out over time “We wanted to break it up into digestible chunks rather than trying to do everything at once,” says Arpino. The tiered process also allowed the university to keep most of its classrooms operational while Arpino and his staff refurbished them.

He advises other CIOs and engineering staff to be strategic. “Think logically about making your budget needs easily digestible.” Often administrators don’t understand why AV conversions require so many resources. “They see an image on a projector but have a hard time understanding that there’s a lot more behind the scenes going into building those higher costs.” For example, administrations don’t understand the cost that goes into making sure the content and device are compatible, he says.

As professors rely more on screencasts and multimedia displays in their classrooms, updating AV equipment is becoming a mandatory step for modern universities. “If you are in the business of teaching and learning, how you present content is just as important as doing Internet research,” says Arpino. “AV in the classroom needs to be prioritized just as much as other IT systems on campus.”

John Arpino will give  a step-by-step for going from analouge to digital at UBTech 2014 in “Going from Analogue to Digital–How to Make the Switch, Step-By-Step“.


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