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Digital Upgrade of TV Lab Takes Campus-Level Innovation of the Year Award at Meramec

March 25, 2010

Angela Grupas and John Elliott  
Professor of Communications Angela Grupas receives the Innovation of the
Year campus-level award from committee member Assistant Professor
of Mathematics John Elliott.














Each year St. Louis Community College participates in the Innovation of the Year award process.  Initially, an Innovation of the Year will be selected at each campus, at the Cosand Center, and, if there are innovations that cross the district in application and usage, a district-wide award. The award winners from each category then compete for the college’s overall Innovation of the Year, and the resulting League plaque and recognition.

For 2009-2010, a proposal for Digital Upgrade in Communications North Building (CN) TV Lab submitted by the Meramec communications department won the campus-level Innovation of the Year award. Led by Dr. Angela Grupas, professor and department chair, communications faculty saw the need to move from analog to digital technology, improving both the space and equipment used by more than 2,000 students each semester.

Located on the second floor of CN, the TV Lab consists of seven classrooms that surround a central control room. The lab serves several functions for the Communications Department. Primarily, it is used to record and playback over 1,500 student presentations each semester for Com 101, Oral Communication, a General Education Foundation course.

Students enrolled in Oral Communication are required to be recorded three times during the semester to help them improve their communication skills such as public speaking, interviewing, and group process. This course provides students with an understanding of such topics as self-concept, nonverbal and verbal communication, public speaking, small group communication, interviewing and human communication principles.

“Since this is both a content and skills based course,” explained Grupas, “we believe students can improve their skills by demonstrating them and then reviewing their videos. We have used this model since 1973 and using some form of video has shown tremendous gains in student learning. Communication needs to be experienced in the classroom, and recording student activities gives students the ability to reflect on their newly developed skills,” she said.

However, technology has changed considerably since 1973, and the outdated recording methods (VHS videotape) in the Lab had begun to present serious problems. “The analog nature of the VHS recordings is not compatible with the digital technology used by most students and faculty to store and retrieve information,” said Grupas. “Providing recorded assignments and activities for students to analyze outside the classroom became increasingly problematic: the videos could not be placed on Blackboard for online students, and we were forced to use valuable class time to replay videos since most students do not have VHS players at home.” Grupas also said that replacement cameras and recording decks had become impossible to get.

Most importantly, the use of VHS technology in the classroom created an “image” problem for the communications department and the college. “Students perceive such equipment as old and out-dated, easily diminishing the perceived credibility of the instructor, the department and the college,” said Grupas.

In the fall semester of 2008, the communications department began planning the conversion to digital. They worked with TESS, Meramec’s Center for Teaching and Learning, Media Services, and Physical Plant. Equipment was ordered and the actual renovation took place during the summer of 2009. The new digitized lab was completed fall 2009 with much success.

"This project demonstrated true teamwork from a variety of departments across the campus. Without the hard work of so many individuals, we would have never got the project off the ground," said Grupas. "Moving from analog to digital technology has allowed students and faculty the ability to view assignments using the college's virtual server, save assignments to flash drives, all the while using free software. The conversation process has been a life saver for our department."