Taking hybrid learning to a whole new level - with TeamConnect Ceiling 2
When the pandemic emerged in March 2020, the University of South Florida (USF) IT team - along with the entire university - was confronted with the burning question of how to launch a campus-wide, hybrid knowledge distribution system as quickly as possible.
Each of the 96 classrooms was equipped with a Sennheiser TeamConnect Ceiling 2 ceiling microphone and cameras for live streams. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 (TCC2), which was already installed in one of the campus' top conference rooms, now delivers top-quality audio in every online lecture and seminar, paving the way for the university's holistic, budget-conscious, campus-wide hybrid learning approach.
The University of South Florida (USF) is a preeminent state research university located in the heart of Tampa Bay. With nearly 50,000 students spread across 14 different colleges, the USF prides itself on being at the forefront of medicine, science, engineering, the arts and more. When the first COVID-19 restrictions were introduced in the U.S. in mid-March 2020, the USF IT team immediately launched initial measures to ensure there were no disruptions to teaching.
“We first gathered our entire team together so we could do a full assessment of the campus,” explains Michael Kraus, Audio Vision Engineering & Systems, USF IT. By April, the USF IT team had completed the classroom assessments and created a specific plan for what a hybrid solution might look like. The university wanted to find a technology solution that would enable full student participation, both online and in person.
The IT team at USF was enthusiastic about the ceiling microphone from the very beginning. They value the TCC2's ability to process multiple audio sources, which makes it a flexible solution that can fit into almost any audio infrastructure. “Most of the signal routing was pretty straightforward,” Kessler says. “Typically we would take the analog output and plug it into our Crestron processor. If we needed other microphones, we could integrate other Crestron USB mixers or, alternatively, send signals directly into the computer using a Dante USB adapter. That's the beauty of this product, because some competing devices only offer Dante connectivity or only analog output.” In addition to the TCC2, which handled the audio signals, each room was also equipped with an audience camera and a professor camera.
“When it comes to microphones, Sennheiser is clearly synonymous with quality,” says Kessler. “I was really impressed by how well the product worked right out of the box. Simply install, make a few tweaks, and head off to the next room. In terms of performance, the audio is very clear and I really like the fact that you can create exclusion zones in two dimensions to block noise from an HVAC system or similar interferences - a great development for us. The ability for a professor to walk into a room, not have to put a mic on and just focus on what they need communicate to the students is extremely valuable.”
USF is confident that its TCC2 installation will continue to benefit staff and students - not only during the pandemic, but in the long term. Kraus adds, “Whether we could use all these devices after COVID was a key question during our initial talks. The TCC2 needed to be feasible with all solutions to make it a worthwhile long-term investment.” An additional benefit for professors is that they can use the TCC2 to record their lectures in high quality.