Webinar: Adapting Higher Education for COVID-19 – Using Dante to Create Hybrid Learning Environments

On this timely webinar, Audinate's Joshua Rush spoke with Joe Way, Director of Learning Environments-Information Technology Services for USC to discuss the school's migration to AV-over-IP using Dante. They covered how this approach has helped to position USC to support a hybrid learning model in response to COVID-19 that combines limited on-campus student attendance with distributed classrooms and robust at-home experiences.

Questions and Answers

Q: How does this help in Remote Learning applications as in Off-Site remote students, Dante Specifically.

Remote students are helped because the on-prem setup is easy, scalable, and flexible. Likewise, you can use Dante to feed the computer running the LMS or UC platform. Unless using a virtual classroom platform, the far-end students wouldn’t need Dante.

Q: How does the USC system deal with audio/video synchronization? A big issue with ZOOM is the inability to synch audio with video. Has USC solved this problem? (Particularly important for music, and performance art programs, in addition to film education.)

I haven’t experienced this problem. I assume it’s due to Shure IntelliMix Room running as the DSP on the Zoom client NUC. IMX Room serves as the synch point and I/O.

Q: How many endpoints/devices are you managing in DDM? Can you give examples of types of DDM topologies your are using?


Q: The featured USC system appears to provide a great experience for the instructor and local audience. What accommodations were made for remote attendee collaboration? And were those accommodations adjusted to create more of a HyFlex situation? Or is this facility simply for non-collaborative distance learning (webinar teaching)?

The focus is built to optimize the on-prem experience, but being able to feed the DSP feeding the Zoom client via Dante also ensures quality being sent to the far-end as well as the far-end being fed back into the classrooms. It does allow for a highly-collaborative experience.

Q: Hi Joe, what is your expenditure per room, and then total expenditure, because USC is huge compared to many Universities that might not have the funds or have administration that see a huge dollar number for a suggested solution.

Answered live. But, between $6,000-$10,000 per room, however in my upgrade, I didn’t touch displays, projectors, or installed speakers.

Q: Do you have Hybrid classes? Students at room and students vía web.


Q: Do you maintain an isolated network for Dante? If not, does your IT department maintain the security protocols or does your AV department?

Yes, we have an AV VLAN for both the Dante traffic and networked video (via NVX). But, I fall under central IT which does have a department to manage the IT and security.

Q: Designing for campus use of Dante and other AVoIP transport (NDI, SDVoE, etc.), I have met with great resistance from IT Managers fearful of converged networks and also who may not fully appreciate total switching capacity requirements, uplink needs, etc. Was this holistic design met with resistance from the school's IT Team, and if so, how were their concerns assuaged?

Yes, and no. It was a holistic design, but it was also a learning experience for both me and the IT team. Thankfully, I fall under central IT, so I was able to work closely with colleagues to pull this off. My advice is to put together a package of all the IT requirements for the entire system and for each piece of equipment, then presenting to the IT managers at one time. Likewise, try to get the budget for added blades, cable pulls, etc., so it doesn’t come from their budget.

Q: How is video handled between these rooms at USC so that it follows the Dante audio as it's routed between spaces?

The video is based on Crestron NVX 352’s which are all Dante enabled, and therefore the audio and video sync together.

Q: How does the set up work for music collaboration for your music learning curriculum.

I think I may have also had this person email me. It does work by allowing every participant to be part of one domain. Their vocal/instrument is able to feed the system. DDM keeps them contained.

Q: System Equipment/Design Questions: What are the NUC specifications to ensure quality & stability of DSP, Zoom, etc on one machine?

Not sure of the exact NUC specs. It’s the Crestron Flex UC engine. We did a lot of PoC testing with both Crestron and Shure in order to ensure that both the Flex and IMX Room work well together.

Q: Why not use an IP Camera?

Chose to go with the Huddly because the NVX could pass back the USB to the NUC seamlessly. Also I like the Huddly auto-tracking.

Q: Why Dante-enabled powered speakers as opposed to Dante enabled power amplifier and low voltage cables?

I do use a combo depending upon the room. When running new network/cable runs, I preferred to use the power from the switch so I could direct run to the IDF. Also, Dante speakers allow for easier zoning and ducking the speakers near the mic. In rooms I didn’t touch speakers, Dante amps are used.

Q: What POE speakers is he using?

Shure MXN5W-C

Q: Remind everyone to never install anything but PoE+ switches again!

True that!

Q: Were more performance oriented spaces such as auditoriums, theaters, stadiums, studios, which on campuses are often also learning spaces, incorporated as well? If so, was the process very different from that of the more traditional classrooms? For example, total stream coordination can be an interesting challenge when a single space could consume a very high portion of allotted channel count.

When we go with a fully 100% Dante ecosystem, there becomes very little difference between a classroom and a performance venue other than the number of devices within each space. Principles are all the same. That’s where DDM comes in to help.

Q: How do you deal with training for using the tech in these spaces?

We have a robust training program with videos, webinars, one-on-one training. Normal users never have to worry about the Dante aspects. That why I chose Dante!

Q: Is it pretty hands-off for Faculty and they walk into a room and it just works? Or do they need some level of training? Or do TAs get the training?

They need very little training. I am a strong believer in user-centered design. They are very intuitive as well as full automation from voice control to occupancy sensors to being synced to the classroom schedule. The room knows who they are before they walk in. But we have a training program as well.

Q: Do you ever hear about any concerns over .. I guess surveillance? If a mic in any given room can be switched on at any time? If so, how do you deal with those concerns?

As a campus we have security cameras everywhere, so people already are used to “being watched.” Also due to COVID, people understand much more about mics and cameras being on. So there’s been very little push pack.

Q: what would the bandwidth be on the network. Are you using the main network with a Vlans or do you have a separate AV network with Vlans?

We have an AV VLAN. The bandwidth is high! But that’s because of the video, which is 750mbs constant. The audio and control is another 100 over that. We have a gig per port avialble.

Q: I am based in metropolitan Nairobi, Kenya- E. Africa. I am in the process of designing a network of studios which requires reliability, and very low latency communication. The proposed primary connection between the first 3 locations are connected through our local telco's fibre-optic infrastructure. All proposed sites are within a 40 kilometre radius. You have mentioned the ability to use the Dante for connection of your campus to remote locations (anywhere in the world) via internet connection. What would be a reasonable expectation on the latency values for my scenario i.e. fibre optic cable connection, within a 40 km radius ?

I don’t remember what latency we ended up setting the system at for the music program. It was pretty loose.

Q: Did you construct a completely new network for Dante AV?

We set up an AV VLAN for everything. It has the audio, the video, and control.

Q: What was the driving force to choose Dante over other AV over IP solutions?

Dante is the best, easiest to scale, reliable, and doesn’t limit me to any particular manufacturer. It is the industry standard.

Q: What do you do when your location doesn't have an ethernet drop? Like an outside location

We haven’t had that problem.

Q: Another question: Given that many students are going to be remote and off-campus, what avenues do you have opening up your network to outside communication? How has the on-campus flexibility improved your off-campus flexibility?

We use a VPN. Answered second part in #12 and #15.

Q: Does Joe have a dedicated network team helping to assist troubleshooting with network issues?

Yes, I fall under central IT.

Q: if you are remotely managing the system, how do manage the non-Dante devices, projector, encoder, lecture capture, decoder

Crestron programming controls every device in the system.

Q: When talking about overflow from one classroom to another, audio over Dante makes perfect sense. How are you sharing video? are you also using DDM?

Crestron NVX.

Q: A couple of practical questions: 1) when adding Dante capability to an ad hoc space on short order, are you ordering up a particular VLAN to be assigned to an existing jack? Am I correct in assuming that you have established a campus side Dante VLAN? 2) How does Dante behaving and performing in the Wide Area Networking/off site situation. (jitter, delay, slip etc)?

(1) Yes, I have an AV VLAN. The IT team is able to assign any jack to that VLAN. (2) Absolutely no issue with the WAN; you do need to find the sweet-spot for your latency settings.

Q: How does Dante preforms on slow VPN connections across different locations. In which way can we see which bandwidth is needed ?

Network speed is important if using Dante across different locations. But word clocking is the most important thing to remain sync’d.

Q: How secure is your Dante network as far as someone gaining access on campus or off to change routing or broadcast something?. I heard you say Dante tied into mass notification, how secure is the access to your mass notification?

We are extremely secure; sometimes annoyingly secure. We have device authentication practices so no rogue devices can enter the ecosystem.

Q: Is Network Security and QoS handled by Joe's team in Dante Domain Manager for the Audio network itself? Or are they reliant upon the Campus wide network security. Are they setting up classes (teacher/classroom to/from students over the WAN) as VPNs?

My team handles it, but in coordination with our IT team. We deal with the Dante and DDM, they handle the network traffic and stability. We do not use VPNs to set up classes, though students need to use a VPN in order to get into the internal network.

Q: Joe, is it possible to send video through Dante Via?


Q: what are the additional security implications to the network?

We have a very secure network, and have a dedicated team to manage it. I suggest using all the security documentation that Audinate provides and give that to your IT team. Let them help drive the conversation because they know their network better than anyone.

Q: How do Students connect remote and do they have the option to play along while on a simple Internet connection?

Remotely they connect to the cloud client.

Q: For larger lecture halls, what kind of microphone coverage do you have for the student side of the hall?

We use the MXA 910’s and 710’s. We have multiple mics in larger spaces to ensure full coverage. Especially with social distancing, you end up putting more students in the back and along side walls than you’d normally want.

Q: Have you deployed any Dante AV cards in your system(s) on your campuses?

Not yet.

Q: Do you have layer 3 switching deployed already with DDM or all layer 2 within the same VLAN?

We are all layer 3.

Q: How are you deploying/using the AVIO USB adapter to get audio into your computers/systems?

I don’t understand the question. The AVIO USB just makes the computer an I/O device.