Enhancing higher education learning

The role of technology in higher education and the steps organisations can take to positively impact the learning experience for all

The coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on all areas of education and affected staff and students, resulting in the closure of many university campuses, and leaving no other option but to adopt online learning. As the sector attempts to rebuild, audio-visual (AV) technology is emerging as a key component in allowing face-to-face learning to continue into 2021. 

The ideal learning space for all students

Like many working environments, it’s often the small changes that go a long way to improving the overall experience. When it comes to learning, the key to success is ensuring spaces inspire and create an engaging experience.

For students to be fully absorbed, they need to be able to see the content and hear the educator loud and clear. Universities and education institutions can ensure this by implementing high quality display technology and professional grade audio products. If students can’t view the content properly or hear the educator, there’s a risk they’ll lose interest and engagement levels will drop.

“When it comes to learning, the key to success is ensuring spaces inspire and create and engaging experience”

When it comes to teaching, educators can engage with students in many ways; whether that’s a live lecture, streamed or even on-demand. It’s important to offer multiple ways for students to consume course content, and offering choice will only enhance the learning experience. Whatever the choice, the systems must be easy to use for both educators and students. There’s nothing worse than a system that’s complicated and frustrating to navigate. Using feature-rich collaboration workspaces such as Microsoft Teams gives the ability to interact with students through chat, voice and video. Sessions can be recorded and learning resources shared through the platform’s secure file sharing functionality. This is a great tool for students, helping them access necessary information on-demand.

Fine-tuning processes for the future

Within a learning space, there are a number of considerations that need to be made when choosing video and audio solutions. It’s best to look for technologies that offer flexibility and AV devices that leverage the existing IT network (AV/IP) are a great way to achieve this. They are easier to scale when compared to traditional analogue systems. It means that you do not need to convert signal format across devices, reducing the complexity and costs considerably. This allows educators to push video or audio signals to multiple learning spaces or even directly into the students’ homes, helping to increase efficiency in the long run. Furthermore, AV/IP solutions can help organisations comply with social distancing guidelines. By delivering content across multiple lecture theatres and integrating into campus-wide streaming services, the number of students in each physical space is greatly reduced.

Bring your own device (BYOD) is a useful service that should be made available to the wider student population, as it allows students to consume course contents at their leisure and on their own devices. Not only is this particularly useful for students moving around campus between sessions, but it also ensures the content is easily available for students who can’t physically attend the session, for example, where self-isolation is required.

As with any organisation, minimising the impact on the environment and reducing carbon footprint is key. This can be achieved by implementing energy efficient recyclable products and employing technologies such as motion sensors that can automatically shut down or start up classroom equipment, lighting and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC). In a similar vein, having a resource management system in place can provide insights on room and equipment utilisation, allowing education institutions to adapt their practices accordingly.

UC tech can maximise engagement

As we’ve seen with the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s key to have future-proof systems in place, especially ones that enable remote learning. Choose video conferencing solutions that are familiar, easy to use, robust and well-built. Platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Webex all have the capabilities to facilitate virtual learning sessions.

Through the installation of plugins, these solutions can integrate with virtual learning environments (VLEs) such as Blackboard and Moodle, allowing the student to move seamlessly, from video collaboration, to accessing learning resources via their learning platform. Integrators are best placed to provide onsite support for institutions and advice around on-going costs, both in terms of licensing and maintenance. This can help education institutions budget effectively and choose the best option based on their needs.

Remote learning capabilities are more important than ever. Having tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams in place can help universities promote seamless collaboration and minimise some of the disruption caused for students in these very uncertain times. While the etiquettes of conference calling won’t be unfamiliar to educators, they might very well be to students. Familiarising them with remote learning practices is really important to ensure sessions remain productive and engaging for all. Steps such as muting when not talking and preventing all attendees from talking at the same time, must be made clear from the start. 

Continuing campus learning with AV

From social distancing to safely navigating the return to campus learning,  higher education has had to overcome many challenges this year alone. AV technology has a part to play in helping bring confidence to universities as they go about creating processes that are safe for both staff and students. For those who are learning onsite, AV also has a role to play in helping implement social distancing guidelines. Desk booking systems can be deployed to ensure the correct social distancing measures are in place throughout lecture halls and learning spaces.

As education institutions look to next year and plan to reopen campuses, they need to ensure their spaces are flexible for new ways of working and educating. Adopting technology that can adapt to changing demands is key for the sector to thrive.

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