About Tulsa Tech
Founded in 1965, Tulsa Technology Center is the oldest and largest independent public school district affiliated with the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education. It offers full-time career training programs, part-time evening and weekend classes,and customized training for local and regional partners. With 11 campuses, Tulsa Tech gives adult and secondary school learners a wide variety of educational training in areas like automotive, aircraft, cybersecurity, healthcare, and more.
Given many of its programs' practical skills and vocational training, classes often require demonstrations and hands-on learning. So when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Tulsa Tech knew it had to come up with effective remote learning solutions quickly.
The Pandemic and Microsoft Teams Phone
In 2021, everyone was sent home, and faculty and staff were not back on their campuses for three and a half months, presenting a big hurdle in the university's phone system. The existing on-premises phone system did not lend itself well to a distributed work environment. Initially, the school created a patchwork of workarounds, such as forwarding calls to employees' homes or cell phone numbers, but the system was challenging to manage and did not support softphones.
This solution worked in the short term; however, the IT team decided to use Microsoft Team Phone, which integrates phones directly into Teams for a better-blended work and learning experience. The school evaluated various phones and ultimately chose Yealink, a Microsoft Gold Communications Partner. The Yealink MP56 features a 7-inch touch screen with a Teams-tailored user interface, Noise Proof Technology, and full-duplex hands-free speakerphone, providing crystal-clear conversations.
No Student Left Behind with
Yealink Extra-Large Room Solution
Tulsa Tech saw that hybrid learning could be the future, even beyond the pandemic. Thus, they sought a hardware solution that worked closely with Microsoft Teams to support their extensive teaching methods. However, the transition to the new mode was not easy.
There are plenty of extra-large classrooms and labs at Tulsa Tech that can hold more than 60 people, making it a challenge to ensure everyone can be seen and heard. The IT team evaluated various hardware options and turned to Yealink again." We were evaluating the system. Since we were familiar and happy with Yealink phones, we looked at their solution," recalls Jason Durham.
The Yealink MVC940 Microsoft Team solution supports up to 9 UHD cameras with 4K sensor, and 12x optical zoom features working simultaneously, each of which can be individually set up to focus on the instructor, podium and in-person students, covering all blind spots. The number of microphones can also be customized to provide the same audio experience as face-to-face instruction.
In fact, unlike many other schools in the area, Tulsa did not see a dip in student enrollment or achievement throughout the pandemic. Durham credits this to using Yealink Microsoft Teams Rooms. Students did not have to miss classes; they simply logged into Teams meetings and were able to get a high-quality view of the classroom with crystal-clear audio, participate as if they were there, and watch presentations, putting on-campus and remote students on an even playing field, with no group excluded from class discussions and activities.
More Than Learning, Collaboration Matters
For smaller collaboration spaces and meeting rooms, Tulsa Tech chose the Yealink MeetingBar A30, a cost-effective solution. The A30 integrates cameras, microphones, and speakers into an all-in-one system. Because there is no need for a computer or separate components - although you can add a touchscreen panel as needed - it is a plug-and-play deployment that uses Microsoft Teams Rooms on Android. This solution allows easy collaboration across campuses at all times, making everyone more connected even in different places.
Easy to Setup, Easy to Manage
Tulsa Tech emphasizes that the solution was fast and easy for instructors to start using. They were already familiar with how to use Teams for meetings; adding classrooms into the mix is essentially running a meeting. And because the Yealink meeting room devices are streamlined and easy to use, teachers simply walk into their classroom, launch a meeting—and off they go.
Also, making the decision to switch entirely to Teams, Teams Phone, and Teams Rooms has had a tremendous impact on the bottom line. For instance, Tulsa Tech was in the process of upgrading its phone system anyway, for which it received a quote of US$750,000—and that didn’t include new handsets, just re-flashing the old ones. Using Microsoft Teams Phone and purchasing Yealink phones cost 66 percent less—only US$250,000.
Standardizing on Yealink Teams phone and meeting room devices also helps to lower management costs, while boosting IT productivity. First, by choosing standard configurations, new phones and meeting rooms are fast and easy to deploy. Second, newly-connected Yealink devices automatically enroll in the Yealink management platform, get the most current firmware configurations, and are available instantly. “Using the Yealink management server has saved us so much time on deploying firmware updates and managing Teams devices,” says Durham. “It alerts us to problems, too. It monitors all the devices, tells us which are offline and if there’s a new firmware update.”
Looking to The Future
For the IT staff at Tulsa Tech, there’s no end in sight with what they can do with Microsoft Teams and Teams Rooms. For instance, the school partners with high schools in 13 different school districts to offer vocational training. It has recently started setting up Microsoft Teams Rooms using Yealink devices in those facilities, so that students don’t have to travel to one of its campuses in order to attend a class. Not only does this extend Tulsa Tech’s reach, it gives students more opportunities to engage in additional learning. Here too, Tulsa Tech has opted for a Yealink device—the Yealink MeetingBar A30, an all-in-one video collaboration bar that can be mounted on a mobile cart and moved around as needed.
Yealink Microsoft Teams Rooms also have the potential to reach more students. While many training programs are required by the state of Oklahoma to include a certain number of in-person, hands-on training hours, there are many that don’t. These programs include classes in IT, real estate, insurance, and other professional training. Tulsa Tech also offer hobby classes, like cake decorating. “The bread and butter of Tulsa Tech is that hands-on learning experience,” says Durham. “We haven’t made a shift to online learning, but we can extend our reach.”
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