Social Media and Public Relations Classrooms Named Finalists in International AV Experience Awards

SMASH lab

KUTZTOWN, Pa. – Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association (AVIXA) has announced the 2020 finalists of their international AV Experience Awards. Kutztown University ranked as a finalist in the Best Flexible Space category for its Social Media Analytics Strategic Hub (SMASH) and Public Relations Agency, referred to as "The Agency" classrooms.

Institutions from more than 20 countries submitted audiovisual (AV) projects for the annual awards. KU features among other finalists in the Best Flexible Space category from the University of London in the U.K., the University of Qatar in Qatar and Amazon.com, Inc., in India. The Best Flexible Space Experience category highlights AV applications that create spaces that are constantly adapting, changing and facilitating the activities that happen within them. KU is the only finalist in the category with two spaces of this nature on a campus, both made completely by staff and faculty.

"We wouldn’t have been able to do that without the support of the administration," said Tyler Schwab, classroom technology manager for KU's Office of Information Technology. "In most cases, that work is contracted out to a company who comes in and does it. All of the other finalists in our category likely outsourced contract professionals to come in and do their installation - we did ours ourselves. It's a nod to the support provided to us by the university."

Former classroom technology manager, Troy Weidner (retired), and Schwab worked on every detail of SMASH and the Agency, from design and installation to training the faculty and students who would be using the facilities. Installation and training are ongoing as needs and activities within the classrooms change, offering opportunities for students to experience and learn these skills firsthand with support from on-campus professionals like Schwab.

"One of the most exciting parts of teaching in the Agency space is its adaptability," said Amy O’Brien, associate professor of English and co-director of the public relations program. "I can transition from having a student display their design work on every monitor in the room for a peer critique session to enabling small groups of students to display paragraphs on their localized pod screens for collaborative writing assignments in about five seconds."

Maximum flexibility is at the core of both SMASH, located in 106 Rickenbach Learning Center, and the Agency, located in 130 Old Main. The two newly-renovated, nearly-identical classrooms have four “pods” consisting of at least one 49” 4K display, a wireless collaboration device dedicated to each individual Pod and the ability to route any piece of content in the room to any other display in the room using a matrix switcher. The room functions align perfectly with the intended uses, both collaborative and experiential in multiple fields of study, while allowing for growth in each space for new technology and new pedagogical practices. Faculty and staff were closely involved in the planning of both the renovation as well as the technology selection and implementation.

The Agency was designed to allow for local organizations to meet with students in person to develop public relations campaigns; it is a dedicated client meeting space with a large format interactive 4K display facilitates collaborative interaction between the students and the client.

"Students work and gain experience building real programs for real clients," O’Brien said. They have networking opportunities and build portfolios. The ability for our public relations students to interact face-to-face with clients is one of the differentiating aspects of our public relations program. We use the room's client meeting space to display concept designs on the large display screen and its interactive capacity enables us to take notes and sketch out ideas right before their eyes. This both facilitates and showcases our students’ creative approach to public relations and communications.”

This year’s winners of the AV Experience Awards will be announced in June 2020. Other categories to be announced include Best Dynamic Art Experience, Best Collaborative Experience, Best Individualized Experience, Best Immersive Experience and Best In-Person Experience. Winners will join a virtual panel discussion during InfoComm 2020 Connected, Tuesday, June 16, to talk about the challenges and triumphs of their projects.

Established in 1939, AVIXA has more than 11,400 enterprise and individual members, including manufacturers, systems integrators, dealers and distributors, consultants, programmers, live events companies, technology managers, content producers and multimedia professionals from more than 80 countries. AVIXA is a hub for professional collaboration, information and community, and is the leading resource for AV standards, certification, training, market intelligence and thought leadership.

To learn more about KU public relations or communication studies programs, visit their websites. Take a virtual campus tour or reach out to speak to a campus tour guide remotely.