Tech Tuesday: IRT presents the innovative technology in McNeely Hall

Tech Tuesday: IRT presents the innovative technology in McNeely Hall

From Information Resources and Technologies

McNeely Hall, home to the University of St Thomas' Undergraduate College of Business, employs the latest technologies to provide an innovative approach to learning and scholarship.  The new building offers more than 75,000 square feet of state-of-the-art classrooms, conference rooms, study rooms, and faculty and administrative work spaces. These new spaces are designed with student and faculty uses of technology in mind to accommodate the latest teaching and problem-solving techniques that businesses require of top college graduates.

The building has installed technologies like thin client computing, Voice-over-IP (VoIP), secure wireless access, top-of-the-line servers and dual-image LCD projectors.  The wireless network technology designed into the building fosters collaboration by allowing students, faculty and staff to stay connected while providing a high level of security.  Classrooms and study areas equipped with integrated technology, support interactive learning, team projects and discussions.  The new home for the Undergraduate College of Business strengthens the educational process through an enhanced use of technology.

McNeely technology environment

As a part of the Sun Microsystems Center of Excellence, UST has installed Sun Ray terminals in McNeely that connect to Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) and the Microsoft Windows environment.  Both environments are served via thin client computing technology.  Together, thin client hardware and software translate to simpler, more cost-effective access to information. Sun's desktop infrastructure allows UST to lower costs and increase security by centralizing the desktop environment into a data center where the environment is managed and upgraded easily from one location.

Technology highlights

An integrated open source environment – McNeely Hall deploys Sun thin client technology via the Sun Rays.  This allows students, faculty and staff to use Sun's JDS, a complete desktop environment built around open-source software. 

Stateless computing – The Sun Rays give users access to a stateless computing environment, one which allows them the mobility to have their work follow them wherever they go, capturing their current desktop simply by ending their current connection.  The session remains active on the server and when a user logs on from another thin client location, they are reconnected to their session.  A person literally can be in the middle of typing a document, end their session and, when they log back on, the cursor is sitting right where they left it. 

Solaris 10 OS – The Java Desktop System, the Sun Ray server software, and the Sun Directory run atop Solaris 10, Sun's sophisticated, open-sourced operating system.

Identity Management software – Sun's Identity Management software links the numerous back-end systems and directories involved in providing and managing the accounts and permissions users need when working on university systems.

State-of-the-art servers – The Sun software runs in load-balanced, fail-safe farms of Sun servers.  UST implemented Sun's newest server technology. These new servers are designed to run Solaris, Linux or Windows on 64 bit CPUs.  As a result, the servers can process information faster while generating less heat than any server in the marketplace.

Voice-over-IP (VoIP) capabilities – McNeely Hall uses desktop phones that function as network devices, using the same network as the computers to operate, rather than traditional phone lines.  This VoIP system, in addition to reducing the cost of constructing and maintaining the building, allows the phones to be more active and intelligent desktop tools through the integration of voice and data.  The VoIP system, as well as other network gear, is provided by the Center for Business Excellence partner, Cisco Systems.

Integrated building design – McNeely Hall audio visual technology

Mirroring the technologies found in the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship and the Sun Center of Excellence on the Minneapolis campus, the new McNeely building was designed with teaching, learning and innovation in mind.  There are 17 standard classrooms, two-tiered classrooms, three conference rooms and one Great Room.  These spaces offer users the technological features listed below.

Standard classrooms

  • A Creston media control system – allows an instructor to seamlessly transition input devices to the room's projector without cumbersome transitions.  When an input such as a computer or DVD is selected, the Creston powers up the unit and sets display and volume controls so the instructor can focus on teaching, not whether the volume is high enough.

    The Crestron system allows support staff to remotely troubleshoot issues when an instructor calls for assistance.

  • LCD projector – designed for 16-by-9 projection, the projector is capable of displaying two images simultaneously.
  • Dell computer – desktop computer provided for productivity or presentation applications.
  • Sun Ray – connected to the JDS environment, offering an alternative desktop as well as a connection to the stateless computing environment.
  • Laptop computer input – allows faculty or students who bring in a laptop quick and easy connection to the presentation devices.
  • Document camera – digital high-resolution display for hard copy or transparencies.
  • DVD-VCR combo unit – for audio or video material that is presented in class.

While all of the standard classrooms offer the above technology, the following additional features are available in the rooms listed below.

Tiered classrooms

  • Speech reinforcement – making it easier for the instructor or presenter to be heard by the entire room.
  • Recording capabilities – classes a student misses or would like to review can be recorded and played back at the student's convenience.

Conference rooms

  • Executive conference room layout – creates a professional atmosphere.
  • Built in technology – enables a high level of discussion to occur.

The Great Room premier presentation system

  • Includes the ability to record onto videotape, DVD or computer hard
  • Fully automated system.
  • Quick and easy room transformation for audio-visual presentations.
  • Routes audio signals to high quality recording equipment for superior audio capture.

Listen for the Thunder coming this fall

One of the standard classrooms in McNeely Hall soon will be equipped with the Thunder Virtual Flipchart System. Thunder is a collaboration tool designed to allow data and content to be developed in real time, allowing participants to create, share and display information instantaneously.

Thunder features include:

  • The group easel – allows input and sharing of any media image, analog or digital. As easy to use as a flipchart, participants control functionality and jot notes and drawings onto a "page" with a stylus or finger.
  • Multiple pages – are "posted" (projected) onto the wall in high resolution, allowing all the information to remain visible to all participants.
  • With the touch of an icon – participants from other sessions can see all of the posted information, exchange data and share ideas regardless of physical location.
  • Continuity – instantly access the previous session content, ensuring that ideas are never lost.