Campus Technology

Mesa Community College (MCC) Improves Remote Education with Audio Capture Technologies

Classroom technologies are vital to help today’s educators engage students, provide hybrid learning opportunities and enhance familiarity with new tools commonly deployed in modern work environments. At Arizona’s Mesa Community College (MCC), which serves more than 20,000 students across three campuses, Covid-era shutdowns and funding provided a perfect opportunity to evaluate existing classroom technologies and pursue new solutions to enhance the flexibility and quality of remote learning experiences.

“As schools across the country searched for ways to deliver educational instruction to remote students, we had a strong sense that classroom technology had shifted from being a special feature to a basic requirement,” said David Kollar, MCC Tech Support Specialist for Tech Services Media. “Our team in the Media Department recognized that temporary school closures presented an opportunity to transform classrooms with new systems that deliver superior quality audio and video for remote learning. Based on colleagues’ prior positive experiences with ClearOne audio and video products, we tested and eventually selected multiple ClearOne audio solutions to provide reliable, cost-effective audio capture and guarantee every remote learner can hear each word spoken in the classroom with outstanding clarity.”

The school began evaluating its existing classroom solutions in the spring of 2020, and before long acquired a demo system from ClearOne using the company’s COLLABORATE® Versa™ Pro CT beamforming in-ceiling microphone and CONVERGE® Huddle DSP mixer. After testing the solution and inviting staff to comment on its performance, the school quickly purchased 28 Huddle mixers to improve the quality and simplicity of some existing room systems. As of May 2023, approximately 200 rooms offer educators the power and reliability of the Versa Pro CT solution, while eight larger rooms are upgraded with the enterprise-grade ClearOne Converge Pro 2 DSP.

“As a forward-thinking institution that happens to be one of the nation’s largest community colleges, we strive to provide maximum value to our students, no matter how they attend courses or where they are physically located,” added Jeff Foster, MCC Senior Tech Support Specialist for Tech Services Media. “Remote learning provides an excellent option for any students who can’t attend a class while also greatly increasing opportunity for parents or working professionals who rely on our courses and programs to advance their education and careers. Combined with the upcoming launch of our very first four-year degree programs, we are once again proving our commitment to innovation in education and providing options that allow more prospective students to pursue learning where, when, and to what degree they choose. Innovative technologies such as ClearOne’s powerful audio products are crucial to our continued success and ability to attract students in a highly competitive market.”

When the installations are completed, approximately two-thirds of existing classrooms will house ClearOne audio capture solutions, with some existing tech infrastructure being retained and integrated through analog connections on the ClearOne DSP mixers. Like many colleges, the campus designates some classrooms for open booking, while others are assigned to specific professors. Standardizing these easy-to-use systems across the entire campus allows for much greater reliability and ensures educators can quickly utilize remote tools without requiring IT assistance or encountering obstructions.

To help the school get up to speed and optimize use of the new solutions, ClearOne provided in-depth training to the technical staff and helped ensure teaching staff could be quickly trained to use advanced features such as Auto Echo Cancellation (AEC). A combination of new and existing PTZ cameras provide video capture, while a select number of legacy microphones were integrated into the Converge Pro 2 systems in larger lecture halls.

“With these investments in classroom technologies and the ability to support remote learners, Mesa Community College has positioned itself to be a leader in higher ed for years to come,” said ClearOne rep Jason Wiley. “Students of all disciplines can now enjoy crystal clear lectures and lessons wherever they choose, eliminating barriers for non-traditional students and enabling greater access to life-changing education.”

Simplifying user operations even further, ClearOne solutions feature wide compatibility with today’s leading virtual conferencing platforms including the company’s own COLLABORATE Space, Cisco WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet.

ClearOne’s Versa Pro CT solutions offers schools and businesses a cost-effective solution for ultra-high-quality audio capture in small to medium sized rooms. Comprising a powerful ceiling tile-style beamforming microphone array that blends into standard room environments, as well as a COLLABORATE Huddle DSP for signal processing and echo cancellation, the solution is easy to deploy and use for daily communications.