The Voice: Fall 2002

The Voice

Faculty pitch in to build new Mac lab

Dr. Henry Duitman expects the new software programs to dramatically affect student's ability to compose, arrange, and transpose music. A collaborative effort between four faculty members and the Dordt College computer services staff this summer led to an unexpected new Macintosh computer lab.

In May, Computer Services Director Brian Van Donselaar notified the three academic deans that because of fewer repair expenses than expected, budget money was available for a new project. He solicited proposals to be funded. Dean of the Humanities John Kok, who knew that the Macintosh users in his division felt they were under-served, alerted Henry Duitman in music, David Versluis in graphic design, Simon du Toit in theater, and Ron Johnson in video communication. Within days they came up with a plan for a shared Mac lab in one of the classrooms.

In the end, the lab was located in the library because of space freed up from renovations connected with the Campus Center. And although it does not have all of the video editing capabilities first envisioned, almost everyone is excited about the new educational opportunities it allows.

“The real story is the collaboration,” says Duitman. “It’s what Dordt does best.”

Following the computer services call for proposals, Duitman began by resurrecting plans he had suggested for a music Mac lab to replace the ten-year-old Macintosh lab music students have used for composing and transposing.

Versluis had the greatest immediate need because of burgeoning numbers in his graphic design classes. And du Toit had been making do with a few individual Macs in the library to teach CAD drafting for theater scene design. Johnson also needed more sites for student video editing.

The over-budget money was not enough to cover everything needed, but neither computer services nor the professors gave up. The final lab is a result of the four departments and computer services each contributing—and giving up—something.

The music department gave up its small lab, and the library’s learning resource center Macintosh computers were given up to the lab so that staff would have a manageable number to service and so that software licenses for each computer stayed within budget. The theater -department used their set-building expertise to build the desks at negligible cost by refurbishing those from the Learning Resource Center. Computer services began the compli-cated task of setting up several complex software packages on one network so that anyone could log on to any computer and pull up their own files and the specific program they needed.

The new technology classroom has fifteen stations plus an instructor’s station that has sound and projection capabilities. Each computer runs on the new OS X Macintosh operating system and has access to the latest software available: Quark and Photoshop for graphic design, Vectorworks for CAD drafting, Sibelius 2 for music composition, and Go-Live for audio-video editing.

“The real expense was in the software,” says Van Donselaar, who credits junior Mark Haan with determining which hardware to order, learning and installing OS X, and doing much of the detailed and complicated work of making so many complex programs run smoothly on one system.

“His contribution to making this all work was huge,” says Van Donselaar.

Although the new lab doesn’t offer completely new programs for students, it makes the teaching and learning process much more effective. Du Toit worked with students interested in scene design on a few computers in the graphic arts lab last year, but now he is able to demonstrate techniques to more students and have them practice them right away.

“I can get to the problem areas faster, and I am confident that the students are reaching a more even and balanced level of mastery,” he says.

“One of the things I appreciate about the new lab is the collaboration between graphics, music, communications, and theater. It is important for graphic design students to know that the industry may require familiarity with motion, sound, storytelling, and visual techniques. I believe the multimedia lab sets the stage for a more comprehensive curriculum in graphic design at Dordt,” says Versluis.

“This committee has been the most fun of any I’ve served on,” says Duitman. “And it’s the fastest I’ve seen something like this happen on campus.”

But it wasn’t without its difficult moments. Although the equipment was on campus, the network was set up, and the desks were built, delays in the Campus Center construction meant that the room was not finished until the week before classes started.

The desks were designed and cut in the scene shop, ready to move to the lab the minute the okay was given. As each desk was assembled by the theater staff—during the week students arrived on campus, computer services staff put the computers, keyboards, and graphic tablets in place.

“Having several departments work together allowed us to come up with a better solution to our needs than any one area working alone ever could have,” says Van Donselaar. He looks forward to working on equally creative solutions in the future.