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Despite the easy remote access to vast amounts of information online and computer-based training, it is still important to get together and learn as a group – at school, further education or in the workplace.
Technology for learning in the classroom or training room has long since left blackboards and overhead projectors behind. It exploits interactive screens, large and small, and aims to connect them locally and remotely, simply and seamlessly, to enhance the learning experience.
Innovation has added more capabilities, but it also fosters changes in the learning environment and the way both teachers and students interact with information and with each other. The emphasis now is more personal. For this reason, the return on investment is harder to gauge, but when experienced, can be felt.
Europe’s largest audiovisual (AV) systems trade show and conference, ISE2019, includes a session on insights from a survey of higher education plans to improve the learning experience as well as pain points experienced by students. This is important, because the human element is always vital to obtain value from technology investment, but is often difficult to measure directly.
Making a connection with people
The student’s experience has to be the main point of focus. Across any educational establishment or course, there will be students with access to a diverse array of technology. It is important to accommodate personal preferences, but decisions about laptop or tablet and operating systems may not be simple fashionable choices. There are dependencies determined by budget or other constraints, which may affect the range and style of applications used.
Some students may have hearing or sight impairment, which might mean they are better served by certain applications, but not others. They might also benefit from an AV system’s augmentation of sound or images, just as others with attention difficulties may benefit from increased use of video clips and images, or interactive content to aid focus and understanding.
Being open and inclusive to people’s individual sensory needs, as well as diverse technology choices, means adopting a flexible approach to AV infrastructure and looking at options that can be tailored to a broader set of needs than might be found in corporate environments. Increasingly, AV systems are becoming less proprietary, more open, easily extended and connected, making it simpler to personalise the experience for all involved.
The right choice of technology can make the entire learning experience come alive with vibrant, interactive and immersive displays. Information no longer needs to be presented as static text or a seemingly monotonous presentation, but can be far more dynamic.
High-quality visual screens, complemented by those carried by the students themselves, can display stimulating content, delivered in a way that engages and captivates students. It is even better if they can immerse themselves in the information and interact with it with augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) technologies.
A collaborative, immersive environment
This sort of interaction and participation can involve the whole class. Rather than the one-way broadcast style more common in education in the past (or corporate presentations, for that matter), a more collaborative approach can easily be facilitated by choosing the right AV technology. This will only grow in importance as more, complex and dynamic data needs to be manipulated and visualised.
The Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey uses Oblong Industries’ Mezzanine platform to combine multiple sources of information from presentations, market news feeds and corporate data, side by side. This gives students a more active role, guided and coached by the educator. Not only is it more engaging, but it helps students to solve problems more quickly, learning collaboration skills that will become invaluable in the workplace.
Dynamic interaction and feedback, with control options for the person leading the learning exercise, ensure that everyone gets the most out of the experience. This builds a more productive relationship, not just between educator and learner, but also between the students, and develops collaboration skills that will serve them well beyond the classroom or lecture theatre.
It also enables educators to focus their attention on aspects that are more challenging, or individuals that are struggling with certain elements. Immediate feedback and direct involvement remove constraints and improve outcomes for all types of process, and education should be no different.
Direction of technology travel
Changes in technology support this, but not always because of high-end innovation. Much is due to the increasing availability of sophisticated, high-quality AV. Technology is more pervasive and affordable, which means dedicated lecture theatres are no longer the preserve of AV because any space can be turned into a learning environment supported by flexible and easy-to-use AV technology.
Lower costs and greater use of open standards, so that systems from multiple suppliers can be integrated more easily, open up the possibilities for existing facilities to upgrade to the latest technology. Rather than just increasing the numbers of pixels – easy to do as screen resolutions have grown through HD, 4K and now 8K with 7,680 x 4,320 pixels – many are being replaced by interactive touch panels and camera systems, creating further opportunities for simplifying ease of use, but also interaction.
Ease of use is also being improved by a switch from wired systems to wireless connectivity. This not only avoids the depressing “where’s the video cable/adapter?” question, but it also makes it much easier for multiple participants to be involved, connecting and dropping out in an ad-hoc manner, allowing far more spontaneous interaction. This is useful in a corporate environment, but perhaps even more so in an educational setting, where throughput of users will be higher, and self-support is the only viable option.
Return on AV investment
The value of higher-quality user experiences and increased collaboration are always hard to measure, hence the interest in the survey responses presented at the integrated experiences design conference. Improved educational outcomes will only become obvious with the passage of time, but there are clear advantages from the increased use of AV technology in the education sector, where it delivers more inclusivity to those finding it difficult to study, and more engagement and interaction for everyone.
The best way to find out whether these advantages translate into real benefits is to talk to AV suppliers that focus on the education sector about the examples they have from their customers. It might not always yield hard facts and figures, but those who are obtaining good educational results from the possibilities that AV delivers to education will be able to say how and why the technology has worked for them.
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