Planning Tips


How can I become familiar with the technologies at the DEC?

If this is your first time in a DEC, it is recommended that you schedule a technology overview with a DEC Technical Support Specialist as early in the planning process as possible.  The Technical Support Specialist can review your technology requirements, provide an overview of available technologies to support your event and identify any special needs or concerns.

What kind of technologies are available at the DEC?

Each DEC is equipped with a baseline set of supported technologies, which are listed for both DEC@CIC and DEC@Henry (e.g. lecture capture, streaming, display and desktop conferencing/collaboration, etc.).

The INI selected the technologies based on performance and overall compatibility with core AV display and control systems. If you wish to use other technologies as peripheral elements or wish to integrate non-baseline software applications, please discuss them with the Technical Support Specialist at least one week prior to the event.

The Technology Support Specialist can be available to advise and assist you, if requested, but the INI cannot guarantee the efficacy of any non-baseline technologies.

If you are using a non-baseline application, it is best to display your presentation from your own laptop that runs that application and has all the necessary plug-ins and helper applications loaded.  Software applications should not be loaded onto the DEC display machines.

Content Design and Display

It is always tempting to pack as much information on a slide as possible. While large, high-lumen displays like the one in the DEC@CIC can adequately display 10 pt text, it is taxing on the audience and difficult to read once that image is ingested to a course capture system and eventually displayed in a small window on a desktop. 

Recommendations for your presentation's layout and display:

Use a sans serif font, such as Arial or Helvetica, at 24 pt or larger. Consider using light colored text over a dark background. Condensed, outline or script fonts can be very difficult to read and should be avoided. Also be wary of using colors with similar values. While the pastel purple and pastel violet may appear significantly different on your high res computer monitor, they can appear almost exactly the same when projected.

What is the best display resolution on my laptop?

A scaler provides a consistent display resolution to various processing and display components. The upshot is that the display systems are happiest with laptop display resolutions in the vicinity of 1280 x 720 at 60Hz. If you try to display your laptop (particularly Macs) and get a flaky image or no image at all, check your display resolution.

Promoting Interactivity in Multi-site Instructional Events

How can I engage remote participants better?

If your event involves synchronous instruction to students in other locations via video teleconferencing, interaction is an important element in the instructional equation. Students in other locations can often feel left out and relegate themselves to a passive or "invisible" status unless they are regularly engaged. That engagement can take many forms, the simplest of which is eye contact. Treat the camera at the back of the room as you would another student. Call on other locations for responses to questions. Invite them to contribute. Let them know you haven't forgotten about them. While calling virtual students by name may be uncomfortable for them, inviting responses from individual sites can be just as effective. Other interactive strategies include demonstrations, role playing and group activities with student outbriefs from each location.


How much time should I reserve?

During the academic calendar the DECs are very busy and scheduling back-to-back events is not advised given the time necessary for room turnover. As mentioned in the DEC reservation guidelines, please make sure you schedule time prior to and after your actual event to accommodate setup and break down as well as affording time for participant entrance and egress. One half hour is usually sufficient.

Internet Connectivity

Is internet connectivity available?

The resident display machines are hard-wired to the network. Wireless network access is also available in each DEC for authorized Andrew account holders.

Can non-CMU presenters and participants connect?

If your event requires network access for non-CMU participants, temporary Andrew accounts can be created with adequate advance notice.

A Word About Desktop Conferencing/Collaboration Technology

With the ubiquity of desktop conferencing and collaboration tools and their relative ease of use, it is easy to overlook the complexity of its use in a classroom setting. From a purely pedagogical perspective, integrating an autonomous mode of interaction with a large audience--such as running a conferencing application on a laptop and sharing it with a 94-seat classroom--present its own challenges with both locus of control and the facilitation of participant interaction. The technical aspect presents no fewer challenges.

In order for all participants to see and hear one another, the conferencing application needs to interface with the video and audio feeds to and from the AV control system in the venue. 

At least two local computing devices are required: one control machine to facilitate the application interface with the AV control system and one for driving the presentation of content.  Additional machine connections may also be added to attend to administrative tasks within the application, such as managing participants or fielding chat-based Q&A.

Once the interface is accomplished, the next hurdle is the management of audio. Consider the distraction that is caused when a telephone caller to a talk radio show forgets to turn down their radio. Multiply that example by the number of desktop participants in your conference, make the delay one second instead of seven, and you stand to bring the event to an abrupt and unpleasant halt. Consider disabling participant audio for presentations and closely managing it for Q&A by only opening audio for one participant at a time. Adobe Connect, the DEC’s supported video conferencing and collaboration tool, provides an option that allows participants to “raise their hands” for questions. At the very least, remind all desktop participants to use earphones and mute their audio when not speaking.

This explanation is offered to shed light on the complexity of a seemingly straightforward endeavor and the importance of planning in advance with your Technical Support Specialist.