Technology Plans for New Business Building Mix Bits with Bricks

From the third floor faculty offices to the sprawling outdoor courtyard, plans for the new Rawls College of Business building call for a web of wireless technology designed to connect students and faculty to the business world. But for all the binary bells and whistles being plugged into this project, the most surprising feature may be what got scrapped from design plans — the computer lab.

Instead of solving faculty and student’s needs for technology access the traditional way with a room filled with rows of computers, college administrators designed the entire building as a virtual, technology-friendly space, and the resulting litany of features is enough to make any technophile jealous.

Classrooms in the new building will be outfitted for distance learning with ceiling mounted cameras and video broadcasting capabilities. Lectures will be automatically captured and available to be published on the college’s Web site before students and faculty have time to change classes.

A variety of digital display technologies will be used throughout the space, replacing blackboards in classrooms and equipping breakout rooms with LCD screens and laptop connections for study sessions and project collaboration.

To keep pace with the increased use of technology, wireless network capabilities as well as heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems will be upgraded. Staff computers as well as machines used for research will be set to automatically back up the data stored on their hard drives every night.

This integrated approach to incorporating technology into the design plans for the building will also benefit the project’s bottom line.

According to Donald Clancy, senior associate dean of the Rawls College of Business, construction costs for a traditional computer lab would have added $3 million to the new building’s price tag.

In it’s place, the college plans to build a virtual lab of software tools that will be installed and maintained on the college’s server. The virtual lab of more than 30 different software applications for research and collaboration will be available via the Internet for students and faculty to access from their computers.

This hosted software approach will help ensure that the right mix of applications is always available and up-to-date. Students will be able to access the tools from anywhere.

“All they have to do is sign on, and they’ll have access to all the software they need,” said Clancy.

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