Today’s college students grew up in a digital world. Smartphones, tablets and similar devices are commonplace to them, and they expect classroom technology offerings to match or exceed the seamless, user-friendly tools they carry in their pockets.
By and large, however, classroom technology has not been meeting students’ expectations. A 2016 study by Wakefield Research found that 20 percent of students were dissatisfied with college classroom technology — a number nearly equal to the percentage who said they were “completely satisfied” (22 percent). While companies like Corbett Technology Services (CTSI) have worked to bridge the gap between high school and college offerings, there’s still much work to do.
And universities know it. According to Karen McCavitt at eCampus News, many campuses are making a commitment to digital literacy for all students, focusing on updated curricula, public-private partnerships and flexible tools that allow teachers to focus on the skills their particular students need. AV integrators’ specialized knowledge of these tools and their applications play a crucial role in making digital literacy a staple of college classrooms.
In a previous article, we discussed the how and what of bidding on AV projects in college and university settings. Here, we’ll discuss the why : Why update a classroom’s AV technologies, and why are integrators essential to the process?
By understanding the why of AV over IP and similar options in educational settings, integrators can both bid more successfully and find efficiencies in their own work.
Why 101: Simplifying the Pedagogy of AV in the Classroom
Like their K–12 counterparts, college professors and administrators focus heavily on pedagogy, or the why and how behind teaching strategies, tactics and choices made in the classroom. For integrators, being able to connect their expertise to pedagogical outcomes is a must in the bid for education projects.
Marketer Jack Donnelly outlines several benefits of AV in the classroom:
- Improved engagement. 96 percent of K–12 teachers see a clear link between tech use and improved student engagement, according to Peerless-AV . The link persists at the college level. As in any endeavor, improved engagement leads to improved quality of outcomes.
- Better collaboration and communication. Students can engage with a task and one another in order to find solutions. When a classroom’s tech offers tools like CCS’s web-based student response software , students can start working together right away, instead of waiting for a professor to struggle with an outdated projector, a pile of papers or a messy whiteboard.
- Expanding learning style access. Whether students understand information best when it’s visual, auditory or hands-on, a state of the art tech system will help them think, analyze, understand and retain information.
- Flexibility of presentation. Many college faculty are adept at adapting their curricula to the tools at hand. When AV systems are well-designed and well-implemented, the possibilities for presenting lessons and engaging students as collaborators increase dramatically.
For integrators, working these benefits into communications with educational stakeholders (and backing them up with data) is a must. Integrators seeking an additional “edge” in their presentations to potential customers may also wish to think about support.
In a 2007 study published in Literacy , researchers Arthur Sheldon and Linda Pagett examined the introduction of interactive whiteboards into a number of classrooms in England. They found that while an onboarding session offered some help to teachers, training in which teachers first learned the tool and then helped one another in class offered better results.
Studies of actual classroom use can help integrators better tailor their support offerings to the unique environment of the K–12 or college classroom. So can talking to administrators: The 2016 College Computing Survey found that 81 percent of university CIOs rank better teacher training in technology among their top priorities.
In addition to focusing on the general benefits of improved AV, integrators will want to focus on particular offerings and their specific benefits. Below are just a few examples.
AV Beyond the Classroom: Lecture Capture
On its surface, “lecture capture” looks like ordinary video recording of professor lectures, which has been done with standard camcorders and similar equipment for decades. However, modern lecture capture technology offers interaction options, like the ability to annotate and mark video sections, which old-fashioned VHS does not, as Mark R. Mayfield points out.
As early as 2011, Wainhouse Research predicted that lecture capture “is likely to be as pervasive as email on college campuses.” At the time, 77 percent of college and university professors were already integrating lecture capture tools into their courses. Today, the number is even higher.
Lecture capture tools are particularly promising in fields where a number of technical diagrams, graphs, maps or charts are part of lectures, notes the 2016 Campus Computing Survey. Nevertheless, the technology has some detractors, who worry that it will continue to promote passive learning and may actually make lecture delivery worse.
Integrators are particularly well-placed to address these concerns. Seamless AV technology, an emphasis on AV over IP tools and a focus on including interactive options into lecture capture files can improve playback quality, access and the usefulness of the systems for students.
Bringing Distance Learning to the 21st Century
Distance learning has been a US institution since the 1800s, according to Georgie Miller . When radio and television became available, so did courses via broadcasting methods. The first all-telecommute college, Coastline Community College, opened in 1976. Schools like Florida National University not only chart the timeline of distance learning development, but also offer online programs of their own.
Today, online courses are one small part of the opportunities available through distance learning, and AV integrators are essential to every university’s attempts to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of their distance learning offerings. Companies like Avidex offer video conferencing suites and other options to create “interactive distance learning rooms,” in which professors can provide course content through videos, apps, interactive whiteboards, lecture capture and other tools. Students need no longer be in the physical classroom to gain a rich class experience.
Reaching Past STEM
Because classroom AV greatly expands the ability to create and share charts, diagrams and other highly detailed visuals that can’t be effectively produced on a chalkboard or whiteboard, its earliest adopters were in business schools and STEM fields, according to Mayfield. Recently, however, integrators have demonstrated how well-designed AV systems can benefit students and educators in the arts, as well.
CEI ’s work on the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech provides an instructive example. The center’s new Multimedia Center offers an HD television studio, production control room, newsroom and connected classroom. The space makes it possible for students from the arts department and the communication department to collaborate. In an era in which artists and writers must be their own best marketers, as researcher and historian Paul B. Sturtevant says, the Moss Arts Center tech upgrades make it easier for students to prepare, launch and sell their own careers.
Seamless Tools: Why Classroom Tech Needs Integrators
In an article for AV Insight, Kelly Perkins lists seven technology upgrades “that will have the biggest impact on learning outcomes and improved experience”:
- Microphones and flexible sound systems,
- Webcams and videoconferencing,
- Wireless and mobile presentation tools,
- Content collaboration tools,
- Smartboards and interactive whiteboards, and
- Lecture capture.
Integrators will immediately recognize these recommendations not as isolated tools, but as parts of a whole. And when they are integrated effectively, these tools create a powerful opportunity for students and faculty to think, create, share and learn.
AV integrators also have an opportunity to create flexible classrooms that are not just easy for students and faculty to use, but that also combine the best of both in-seat and distance learning.
For example, Ford AV ’s work at Regis University’s Denver Tech Center includes classrooms equipped with projectors, audio and input wall plates. 50-inch displays in the computer labs make it easy for teachers and students to collaborate and share. And a commitment to AV over IP connectivity makes it simple to share all the work within the classroom among learners throughout Colorado, the country or the world.
Universities may continue to purchase AV and other classroom tech in a piecemeal fashion. Facing budget constraints and a relative lack of knowledge of up-to-date options, some administrators attempt to do just that. Integrators who can articulate the immense value of a well-organized system, however, stand to change minds — and secure clients.
Images by: robhainer/©123RF Stock Photo, andriikobryn/©123RF Stock Photo, siaath/©123RF Stock Photo