The University Record, February 8, 1993

Cable agreement gives residence halls door to the future

By Rebecca A. Doyle

The University’s Housing Division has opened a door to the future by signing a contract with Columbia Cable of Michigan to provide cable television service to the 5,524 residence hall rooms on campus.

Installation of coaxial cable begins this week in Couzens Hall, and is expected to be completed campuswide by early fall, according to Alan Levy, director of public affairs for the division.

The agreement between Columbia Cable, the Housing Division and the Information Technology Division (ITD), calls for the company to install a second cable that will provide an additional 80 channels. This will connect to the campus’ broad-band network, opening the door to innovative communication and education technology.

The broad-band network, installed in 1982 to carry data, already links more than 60 campus buildings. Most data now is carried on the fiberoptic network, however, leaving the broad-band network accessible for video transmittal.

“Housing has shown great foresight in arranging for the residence halls to be part of the campus video network,” says Samuel J. Plice, ITD’s chief operating officer. “This installation lays the groundwork upon which we can build and integrate multimedia instructional programs into residence hall rooms.”

The estimated $2.6 million in installation costs will be absorbed by Columbia Cable, and students will pay an additional $15 per month per room for the service unless they return a form that will be mailed in late summer saying that they do not want it.

Students will receive the same programming as Columbia’s residential customers plus three channels that will be broadcast from the Housing Division’s “head end,” the control center on campus—a campus information “bulletin board,” an education channel that would include student-originated programming, and Housing Division’s own movie channel.

Videos will be obtained for the movie channel through a licensing agreement with a national provider, Levy says, and a committee will decide which ones will be broadcast. Students also may subscribe for an additional fee to premium channels offered by Columbia Cable, such as PASS, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Disney.

Levy says the system is part of the Housing Division’s Goals for the Year 2000 to “provide innovative and consistently superior services and programs designed to meet the needs of our resident population.

“The Housing Division will initiate a major effort to draw in faculty, academic departments and instructional media staff,” Levy says, “to utilize the channels for University-originated programming to the fullest possible potential.”

A committee with representatives from academic units, ITD and the Housing Division is being formed and will look at ways to use the cable link to offer integrated media. Randall Root, director of information systems for the Housing Division and coordinator for the committee, says they will meet before the end of March.

“We anticipate a committee of 10–12 people who will be very involved with what is shown,” he says.

Lynn Conway, associate dean for instruction and instructional technology in the College of Engineering, visualizes interactive seminars, cross-campus conferences and instructional video availability in residence halls.

“It’s very fortunate that the University’s instructional cable network is being brought to the residence halls right at the time that many exciting new interactive sources of programming are to appear on that network,” she says.

Students also would be able to use electronic mail from personal computers to request recorded laser disc materials on many topics, then receive the material over the broad-band network without having to leave the residence hall.

“We are at the threshold of a marvelous opportunity for exploring new ways to share knowledge and ideas around the University community” she adds.

Edward W. Saunders, director of ITD’s Office of Instructional Technology, has been exploring multi-media instruction technology.

“All our activities are attempting to model the future, where we think that video, audio, animations and other kinds of media will be integral parts of the computing environment and, more important, integral parts of the instructional activities of the institution.”