Since its founding in 1888, Utah State University in Logan, Utah has evolved from a small-town college tucked away in the Northern Utah mountains to a thriving research university respected around the world. With a state-wide enrollment of close to 28,000 students, the Utah State system has facilities and students in all 29 Utah counties, as well as all 50 states, and in 78 countries.
With the university having such an impressive reach, the Academic and Instructional Services department at Utah State plays a significant role in the university's overall curriculum. The university offers a series of online courses and live, interactive broadcasts where students can remotely attend live classroom presentations – and also communicate with the instructor. This is mission critical for the university in its effort to serve rural areas of Utah, where students may be unable to travel to campus for instruction.
A major component to successfully bringing these presentations to all students is utilizing the latest AV technology – and that’s why Utah State University relies on Audinate’s Dante and Dante Domain Manager to ensure students are connected with crystal clear audio.
Dante across counties
Jim Wellings is the Senior Systems Designer and Programmer for the Academic and Instructional Services Department at Utah State University. Wellings and his team design, install and manage all classroom IT systems for the Logan campus and its several remote facilities. The team is also responsible for scheduling remote class broadcasts and operating the systems.
"We manage all the educational live broadcasting for about 600 endpoints around the state; essentially, 600 classrooms either for sending or receiving instruction," explained Wellings. "We use a mix of wireless and beamforming ceiling microphones from Sennheiser and Shure in the classrooms, all connected on a Dante audio network through our DSPs."
Dante is a complete audio networking solution and the de facto standard for digital audio networking. With Dante, universities dramatically reduce their analog cabling by sending hundreds of audio channels over a single ethernet cable. This saves significant time and money without compromising quality. Dante distributes uncompressed, multi-channel digital audio with near-zero latency and perfect synchronization – allowing users to experience pristine audio quality with no interference and no ground hum even over long distances.
Dante also provides unmatched flexibility by allowing channels across the network to be changed with a click of a mouse, eliminating the need to physically plug in heavy, point-to-point analog cabling. Dante’s intuitive user interface and network management features enable even the most complex networks to be set up and configured quickly and easily.
Wellings says a common use for the system at Utah State has an instructor in a classroom on campus, with several remote classrooms around the state, all network connected to video conferencing devices. This allows for broadcast out to remote locations. Audio from a set of ceiling microphones at the remote facilities is routed across the network to video codecs for connection back to the instructor's classroom. This allows students at the distance learning sites to be heard and interact with the presentation as well.
The department offers close to 400 remote classes per week, with 20 to 25 students in each of the remote classrooms. Depending on the specific course, some lectures are recorded and made available to students, while other courses are only available in real-time, on-line.
"We use a set of Dante-enabled Crestron DSP units and some BSS DSP systems to bring together all the audio streams from our Dante-ready ceiling microphones," said Wellings. "We also purchased an enterprise version of Dante Domain Manager so we can manage Dante routing at all locations.”
Dante Domain Manager – a graduated degree of audio management
Dante Domain Manager is network management software that enables user authentication, role-based security, and audit capabilities for Dante networks while allowing seamless expansion of Dante systems over any network infrastructure. Dante Domain Manager organizes a network into zones called "domains" that each have individual access requirements, making it clear and easy to know who can access any area of the system. All activity is logged, tagged, and date-stamped so problems can be quickly identified and solved.
Fully-routed audio breaks down the barriers between campus spaces, eliminating isolated “islands” of networked AV on different subnets, while Dante Domains provide a clear, simple means of organizing the system into independently managed sections for easy visualization and user assignment, even on a very large system. Connecting classrooms, buildings, event spaces and sports arenas anywhere on campus has never been easier, more secure or clear.
“We don't want to have to go to a building with a laptop to make changes or to check things,” Wellings said. “Running Dante Domain Manager allows us to manage all those different subnets wherever they may be."
An example: Utah State recently opened a new Life Sciences classroom and lab building, which brought online an additional 100 microphones. Utah State is bringing all of those end points together effectively with Dante Domain Manager.
"We will have all our microphones fully implemented in Dante Domain Manager," said Wellings. "We have a lot to manage already, the university system continues to grow, and the demand for remote classroom connectivity isn't slowing down. Dante Domain Manager makes things easier and more effective for us."
For universities and colleges of all sizes, Dante Domain Manager provides a boost in efficiency, a reduction in costs and an increase in uptime by allowing a single, centrally-managed audio network to cover the entire campus.
Dante Domain Manager also allows campus support teams to solve problems more quickly and address needs more effectively with a managed, networked AV system that reaches every point in every lecture hall, classroom and event space – no matter the location.
In addition to the remote classroom audio connections, Wellings said Dante Domain Manager is allowing him to be more creative with his problem solving. He is currently planning to use the network to quickly setup alternate lecture halls and classrooms for overflow venues as needed.
"We're experimenting with some classroom overflow system designs,” said Wellings. “If we have too many students for the capacity of a single room, we may need to quickly set up a system to allow students to watch and listen to the presentation in an alternate room. Dante Domain Manager will allow us to easily reconfigure and route the signals to the second room on the fly.”