Making It Happen
As when using a coffee maker or toaster oven, people seldom think about how it works until it breaks. And then often discover the reason it doesn’t work is that it’s not plugged in.
It’s the same at Bard LLI. Audiences take good AV for granted. They expect high-quality PowerPoint or Keynote presentations, with audio and video clips, even links to online live video events such as YouTube. Suddenly, the class is transformed into an interactive discussion easily and quickly. The presenter smiles, knowing how this experience improves the quality of learning. And of course, the students smile for the same reasons.
That A/V magic happens because there is a team of dedicated AV volunteers working behind the scenes to ensure it will. Bard LLI couldn’t exist without volunteers and AV support is one of those groups of volunteers without whom we would be lost. However, there is one problem: potential volunteers think the skillset for AV support is too difficult, and therefore are reluctant to join the team.
Easier Than You Think
At a recent “New Member Snack & Chat,” AV committee chair Dave Jutton held up two things for the audience to see. One was a small bottle of Chardonnay. The other was a small laptop computer.
“If you can tell the difference between these two items,” Dave said, “then you have the ability to be part of the AV committee.”
Everyone laughed, but they also understood. The Bard LLI AV team needs help. And, thanks to modern technology, solving problems is often as easy as plugging in a toaster oven.
The Layered Approach
The team is divided into three layers. The largest is the group of “in-class” volunteers, one for each course, who have been assigned–and trained–as AV support for that class. The second is a small group of highly knowledgeable “AV mentors,” including Chuck Mishaan, Dan Peterson and Fred Roe, who provide training and on-the-scene technical support when a problem is difficult to solve. And the third is Dave and co-chair Gus Pedersen, who work with colleagues and Bard College AV/Computer support staff on an ongoing basis, to make things happen seamlessly.
LLI members who volunteer as an AV in-class volunteer will be assigned to one class. (Incidentally, this is a real perk of the program: if you’d like to take an oversubscribed course, you can, if you are selected to be the AV in-class volunteer. Every class has a reserved AV support seat.) In-class volunteers are trained in a simple overview, as well as in the kind of support required for that class.
Simple Problem Solving
Most often the tasks are as simple as getting to class a few minutes early, turning on the computer and projector, dimming the lights, and making sure the curtains are properly adjusted. Once in a while, a presenter can’t get something to work, but the solution is usually simple. In cases when help is needed, a quick text to the AV mentor team brings assistance within a few minutes. Problem solved.
Dave points out that although most of the team works effectively with a minimum of technical knowledge, those who would like to expand their skills have a perfect environment in which to do so. There are plenty of technology resources from which to learn.
The presenter is as equally appreciative as the class. Most of the presenters have years of AV support under their belt and are comfortable with the basics. In those cases, the AV volunteer simply serves as a backup. Some presenters are new to the world of multimedia so Dave and his team make sure both are comfortable with the system before the semester begins.
The worst case scenario is that a presenter has outdated or incompatible media. In those situations, the senior AV advisors help make the transition to more modern systems and then, and only then, make sure the volunteers are comfortable with it.
Joining the Team
“One of the misconceptions is that AV is a ‘guy’ thing,” Dave emphasizes. “Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a ‘people’ thing.”
So the next time you sit back and are enjoying a class, one which comes to life by pictures and sound, think about how great it would feel to be on the team that makes that happen. Dave Jutton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.