MRC celebrates golden anniversary

9:40:48 AM CDT - Thursday, October 09, 2003

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

_mikewood.jpg (18,777 bytes)
Photo by Jim Meyer

Mike Wood has been the executive
director of the Media Resources
Center since 1989. The MRC is
celebrating its 50th birthday during
an open house Oct. 22.
It started out in 1953 as a basement operation in Morrison Hall, with some audiovisual equipment, a record player and a tape recorder.

Now the Media Resources Center occupies its own 20,000-square-foot building next to Ablah Library and provides TV studio space and distance learning technology.

The MRC got its start as the Audio-Visual Aids Center. English professor William Nelson, a fan of foreign films, was appointed coordinator of the center in fall 1953 and one of his first actions was to go to the various buildings and collect existing AV pieces to centralize their location.

During the course of its half-century existence, the MRC, which became the new name of the center in 1976, has seen lots of changes.

Nelson led an AV staff that consisted of his brother and a few graduate students. Now, the MRC, led by executive director Mike Wood, has a full-time staff of 23 that includes engineers, technicians, creative and administrative staff.

It's been a training ground through the years, as well, for a number of communications and art and design students, who've gotten practical experience as student employees.

The MRC has moved around a bit, from the Morrison Hall basement to the basement of Ablah Library in 1964. Its space in the library increased 54 percent in 1973 through remodeling. When additions were added in the 1980s to the library, the MRC's current location was designed.

The MRC's technology has obviously changed, too. In the 1960s it provided film and slide support for classroom presentations. TV production capabilities were added in the 1970s, and in 1981, WSU-13, the university's cable TV channel, started.

The introduction of a cable channel allowed the first telecourse to be offered in 1982. Telecourses are still popular, with 2,190 students taking courses through that medium during the last academic year, according to Wood.

But the MRC has more high-tech features, as well.

"A lot of energy is going into new media for teaching," Wood says. The MRC now produces DVDs for faculty who want to compile such materials as their PowerPoint presentations. Director of dance Nick Johnson worked with the MRC to put the portfolio of a dance troupe on a DVD.

More faculty are using Blackboard, a Web-based feature where faculty can set up their syllabus, handouts and Web links on the password-protected site. Students can take online quizzes through Blackboard and can even submit papers through a digital drop box. Last year, 1,746 courses were enhanced with Blackboard, and about 15,000 students used the feature.

"The next challenge for us is going to be incorporating video onto the Web," Wood says.

As more homes increase their bandwidth, streaming video will be in demand. The MRC has experimented with it, allowing some test users to view the recent all-student convocation by streaming video. Eventually it hopes to offer streaming video of other events, including commencement, which would allow family members unable to attend to see the ceremony.

While much of the technology has changed, and some of it rapidly, some things have stayed the same. Fifty years later, overhead projectors, which were on the inventory of the Audio-Visual Aids Center, are still available and are used frequently.

A birthday bash

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Media Resources Center is holding an open house 1-3 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 22. Refreshments will be available.

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