The cost of technology downtime in the classroom is more than you think

Unproductive meeting time accounts for around $37 billion in yearly waste.

Talk of the weather, for many in higher education, is the clearest sign that time and money are being wasted while faculty members and students wait for IT staff to hustle to their lecture hall and fix a projector, or computer, or microphone.

David Siedell, senior IT director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said that like the private sector, colleges can lose hundreds of hours of scheduled work time thanks at least in part to technical difficulties.

And now, college and university officials can see just how much money is going to waste caused by technology shortcomings with a free online calculator – made by audio-visual company Cenero — that takes into account the number of campus employees in the room, those employees’ salaries, and the length of the delay.

Many professors and instructors have vamped while IT staffers scrambled to fix problems with wires and web connections, Siedell said, but it’s when the conversation turns to the wind, rain, and sun that educators know their class time is circling the drain.

“If you get to the weather conversation, you know you’re running out of small talk and wasting a lot of time,” Siedell said with a chuckle. “Calculating just how much these delays cost can be an eye-opening experience for a lot of people. It gives you a numerical argument for what is really a human problem.”

The annual costs of meeting and lecture downtime can be stunning. “Unproductive meeting time” accounts for around $37 billion in yearly waste, according to A/V industry estimates.

Rob Gilfillan, president of Pennsylvania-based Cenero, said the “meeting cost calculator” – launched last month – would give campus IT decision makers hard numbers showing how much money the institution is spending on technological downtime

“What people will hopefully realize is that there are analytics involved that can help you improve your classes every day,” he said. “Because other than a gut feeling, they really don’t know how much is being wasted.”

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