Mekelle University, found in the town of Mekelle - in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia – at present hosts over 23,000 students in regular, evening, summer and distance education courses for both Bachelors and Masters Degree programs. The Government of Ethiopia established the college through the merger of two former colleges in May 2000: Mekelle Business College and Mekelle University College. Both colleges have a history of instability; exhausting ascends and descends, as well as numerous relocations from place to place. At present, the University boasts 1400+ academic staff, 1700+ administrative staff, eight colleges, four campuses, six institutes, one referral hospital and a Human Rights and Legal Service Center. Since its establishment, it has proved to be one of the fastest growing universities in Ethiopia – and they are using Vaddio’s classroom automation technology to do it.
“The main objective was to provide a solution to the instructor shortage within the university,” explained Mr. Ashenafi Gebre of Mekelle University. The number of students was growing, but the number of qualified instructors was not. “Because the ratio of students to instructors was so lopsided, they needed to find a solution where one teacher could teach more than one class at a time.” Not only did they want to teach several classes at the same time, they wanted to teach them in front of a live classroom full of students and stream it to other areas on/off campus. “The existing videoconferencing system had poor quality and couldn’t achieve the proposed goal because we needed more than just cameras – we needed automated tracking cameras and video whiteboards,” says Gebre. To overcome this, the university installed Polycom HDX 8000 codecs and ceiling mics in each of the classrooms. “To achieve the best results we decided to deploy several content sources and cameras per room, so we added Vaddio’s AutoPresenter camera/content controller and switcher,” explained Gebre. “With Vaddio’s AutoPresenter we had the option of having more than just the one Polycom EagleEye camera. Now we could add the AutoTrak camera tracking system and a Video Whiteboard to further automate the classroom.” Using Vaddio’s PresenterPOD preset trigger device, each content/camera input to the AutoPresenter can be switched through the touch of a button. “The PresenterPOD makes it easy for the professors to just touch a button and switch from the Video Whiteboard to the desired camera,” says Gebre. “Vaddio products are really easy to install and to use – it’s plug-and-play, not plug-and-pray,” explained Gebre. One skilled professor can now teach students at Mekelle University and post-graduate and medical students at other Ethiopian universities simultaneously. The higher educational institutions in Ethiopia already have plans to automate even more classrooms throughout the Ethiopian university system because of the experience at Mekelle University.
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