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Ethiopia’s Mekelle University eases instructor shortages with Vaddio automated classroom solution

With the student population growing disproportionately to the number of staff at the university, it was decided a solution comprising a Polycom videoconferencing suite and Vaddio automated classroom system should be implemented for distance learning.

Mekelle University, situated in the town of Mekelle – in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia – has turned to a Vaddio automated classroom automation system combined with a Polycom videoconferencing suite to alleviate instructor shortages.

Since its establishment, the univertsity has proved to be one of the fastest growing in Ethiopia. At present the university serves over 23,000 students in regular, evening, summer and distance education courses for both Bachelors and Masters Degree programs.

With the amount of students heavily outweighing the university’s faculty – which comprises over 1400 academic staff and 1700 plus administrative staff, who work over four campuses – the facility required a soluition to help ease the strain on its human resources.

“The main objective was to provide a solution to the instructor shortage within the university,” explained Mr. Ashenafi Gebre of Mekelle University. “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.”

The chosen solution had to incorporate live class recording so the content could be streamed to other areas on and off the 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,” commentss 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.