Founded in 1865, George Washington University (GWU) Law School is the oldest law school in the District of Columbia. Today, it’s one of the largest in the country–and a leader in integrating audiovisual technologies to enhance the classroom learning experience.

During the past six years, GWU Law School has equipped all 30 of its classrooms with Canon Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) Network Video Cameras, which–although small and inconspicuous–capture high-quality, full-motion video that can be transmitted through the internet or over an Internet Protocol (IP) network connection. GWU Law School uses Canon’s PTZ cameras for everything from recording classroom lectures for students to play back later or for viewing in overflow classes, to documenting the practice trials of mock court.

GWU Law School currently uses 40 Canon PTZ cameras, which are remotely controlled from the school’s media center. The center archives the video and makes it available for retrieval and sharing on student computers via a password-protected web site.

“We were remodeling, and when you do that you want to upgrade to the state of the art, which is what we’ve done,” said Thomas A. Morrison, senior associate dean for administrative affairs. “We realized very quickly that there’s always going to be a reason in any particular room to have a camera present. Your typical scenario is a law-class situation, where a student has a valid excuse for missing the lecture. We record that class digitally using a Canon PTZ camera, and we then upload that video onto a private link through a GWU Law School web page to the student so that he or she can view that class at a later time.”

Password protection ensures that the video is seen only by those it was intended for, and the school’s video recording, archiving, and delivery system renders make-up lectures unnecessary. Another use of the school’s PTZ cameras is to telecast lectures to satellite classrooms when audiences are too large for one room to hold.

The most important of all uses for the cameras, Morrison said, is for videotaping student practice trials in mock court. Afterward, students can review their performances, see mistakes, and become better prepared to avoid them in the future.

“Our intention is to be able to record the educational activities in a particular classroom or courtroom any time we want to,” Morrison explained. “This includes not only what goes on in the front of the room, but also audience reactions and questions from different parts of the room. Even though it can be painful to watch yourself making mistakes, it’s also one of the best learning devices you can have.”

Installing high-performance video cameras in classrooms where intensive legal training is an everyday occurrence demands technology that is not only reliable, but also invisible. A large, obtrusive camera has the potential to distract students from their studies. Canon’s PTZ cameras, however, are compact, remote-controllable, silent, and mountable on walls or ceilings in an optional reverse-mount configuration.

“I didn’t want unsightly cameras,” Morrison noted. “I didn’t want a big old camera hanging down from a pipe in the middle of the room. I needed cameras that blend into the classroom environment. And I want them to work. They do that–and we get good, clear pictures.” Canon’s VB-C50i/R PTZ Network Camera with Built-In Server, for example, features a 26X optical zoom lens and 12X digital zoom that can capture fine detail from long distances.

Unseen by students, meanwhile, is GWU Law School’s media center coordinator, Andrew Laurence, who controls the Canon PTZ cameras remotely via their RS-232 connectors. “I use a joystick for focus and for movement, and it has a couple of buttons to preset shots,” he explained. “I can preset shots and store them; I can do the auto focus and manual focus, and I can do backlight and adjust the iris remotely.” The cameras mount quite easily and move a good 180 degrees up and down, Morrison added.

Laurence said the cameras cost about $1,000 each, but he couldn’t estimate the total cost of the project. “The classrooms have computers, VCR/DVD players, reinforced sound systems, et cetera, so it is hard to determine the cost of the installation of the cameras separately,” he explained.

Concluded Morrison: “We wanted a hang-them-on-a-wall-and-forget-about-them solution. That’s what we got with the Canon PTZs. They’re very durable, and we’re very happy with them.”

Links:

GWU Law School
http://www.law.gwu.edu/default.htm

Canon USA Inc.
http://www.canonusa.com

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