By: Joe Dorsey

For many educators, the rapid technological growth of the digital era has presented unique challenges. Ask a high school teacher, and you’re likely to hear about students distracted by their phones, conditioned to multiple screens and constant streams of content.

As these digital natives reach college age, it is increasingly clear that a traditional lecture hall experience often does not meet their educational needs. The challenge is clear: rather than be hindered by it, higher education must leverage technology to keep pace with the times.

Many instructors recognize the potential of the idea, but are hesitant to disrupt their teaching style. Some may recall past failures, like an interactive whiteboard that was rarely utilized for anything a regular whiteboard could not accomplish, or a set of tablets that mostly went unused altogether.

The truth of the matter is that these half-baked attempts do not set instructors up for success – often saddling them with technology purchased because of “use it or lose it” budgeting. This frequently leads to a vicious cycle: expensive equipment is purchased without forethought toward implementation and handed to instructors who are not adequately trained. Ultimately, the equipment is pushed to the side and disregarded as a waste of money.

With this generation of students, however, many schools are recognizing the imperative to get it right. For those institutions the educational AV industry has opened the door to a more collaborative, efficient, and exciting future.

The Classroom, Reimagined

Much of the skepticism around new AV technology in education is rooted in the idea that it is gimmicky or impractical. However, much of the innovation in the space is aimed at finding common-sense solutions to the challenges of the moment.

As AV over IP (AVoIP) technology improves, an integrated classroom is no longer unrealistic, and in fact will soon be standard. The classroom will no longer depend on disparate pieces of technology – a computer here, a projector there, perhaps some speakers and a capture device.

Instead, the educational AV setup of the future is fully integrated. Touch screen classroom displays stream multimedia in high quality, and communicate with speakers and auxiliary devices over IP, reducing cable clutter and infrastructural costs.

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) functionality allows students to collaborate on projects and present work using their own phones and laptops. This allows instructors to take a primary classroom distraction and leverage it to increase student engagement.

Beyond the Classroom

Today’s students are often more comfortable processing information at a self-dictated pace, with the help of the many technological resources at their disposal. As a result, distance (online) learning and “flipped” classes (in which the instructional content is assigned as homework, and class time is used for group learning exercises and greater individual attention) are becoming more common.

Lecture capture has improved dramatically in order to meet the needs introduced by these newer classroom models. In addition to crystal clear audiovisual quality, the latest technology offers a range of supplemental tools as well. Instructors can sync slideshows or computer screen-capture with the recording, or even incorporate embedded quizzes to ensure comprehension.

Inspiring Students

Beyond helping instructors to teach their curriculum effectively, AV can help higher ed institutions deliver on their potential to engage and inspire students. Interactive video walls can be used to display student work, and perhaps spark the imagination of their fellow students. Digital campus signage can be actively updated to notify students of upcoming events, encouraging them to establish community with their peers.

Many universities are even incorporating AV technology to create makerspaces and media labs – publicly accessible stations at which students can experiment, design and create with provided tools like augmented/virtual reality equipment and 3D printers. These spaces foster creativity and collaboration among students, encouraging them to develop innovative ideas and entrepreneurial mindsets.

Navigating the Future

For administrators, the prospect of revamping their school’s technology suite can be intimidating, both for financial and practical reasons. However, when weighed against the challenges of the present, the way forward is clear. The shift toward an educational model built around an integrated AV platform is underway, and for colleges and universities already reaping the benefits, there is no going back.