Projectors facilitate learning in smart classrooms at Minnesota university

With a variety of models, Sony serves all of St. Cloud State University’s projector needs

Back in 1991, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota had only three classrooms outfitted with projectors. Now the 16,000-student university has built nearly 200 “smart classrooms” with projectors hooked up to laptops at instructor workstations. The vast majority of those projectors are Sony models. “Sony makes a wide range of workhorse projectors,” says Kelly Larson, electronic classroom specialist at St. Cloud. “They are at the right price point for us, and quite easy and quick to set up.”

In recent years, St. Cloud State has been expanding, adding new buildings and renovating lecture halls. The administration tasked Larson and his team with configuring new smart classrooms and making its new buildings multimedia friendly. “A big part of that has been bringing on more projectors and hooking them into the hardware in classrooms,” he says. “As we have expanded, Sony has been our go-to projector manufacturer.” Quality projectors are a sizable investment, so Larson recommends carefully comparing different models to find the best fit. For Larson, one of the most important things to consider when buying a projector is the ease of integrating it into a classroom’s pre-existing hardware. “We did a lot of demos with a lot of brands, and what we like about Sony is their consistent quality,” he explains.

Over the last decade, Larson and his team installed over 100 Sony models, including the widescreen VPL-FW41, VPL-FH500 auditorium projectors, the standard VPL-FH30s and the newest VPL-FHZ55 laser light source projectors. Because Sony models have standardized mounts and inputs, he does not need to reprogram classroom laptops or DVD players. “We can install a projector for the first time or replace an old one in under an hour,” he says. “That saves a lot of time and energy.” St. Cloud State has a close working relationship with both its Sony vendor EPA Audio Visual Inc., and Sony Professional Solutions of America, each of whom help to quickly troubleshoot problems should they arise. Back in 2011, for example, LCD displays on some of St. Cloud State’s projectors failed. Sony quickly replaced the units, and arranged to offer St. Cloud higher-grade “in-organic LCD” panels in the future. “When you’re dealing with this level of an investment, customer service is key,” says Larson. “It means a lot to us that Sony meets our support needs like that.”

On average, Larson is now able to get seven to eight years out of his projectors. But he’s excited to roll out Sony’s next generation of laser projectors, which can last over 10 years. Outfitted with more efficient lenses, these projectors offer a more vivid picture at an affordable price point. Over the last year, Larson brought on a number of the new VPL-FHZ55 laser projectors, putting them in the busiest classrooms. “These laser models can save us a lot of money in the long term,” says Larson. As the older projectors expire, Larson plans to bring on even more FH-Z55s. “They are well priced, durable and high-quality. So we plan on installing as many as we can.”

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