Utah State Uses Dante To Connect Instructors With Remote Students
Audinate, developer of Dante media networking technology, worked with Utah State University to implement a Dante audio network that helps offer 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.
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,” Wellings said. “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.”
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, multichannel 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 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. Audinate says 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 is network management software that enables user authentication, role-based security and audit capabilities for Dante networks while allowing expansion of Dante systems over any network infrastructure.)