With the increasing popularity of concepts like active (collaborative) learning, flipped classrooms, and lecture capture, higher education AV system designs have evolved past the typical “hang-and-bangs.” AV design consultants and integrators see lots of opportunity in the higher ed market to provide more complex AV system designs to support these new teaching trends, but they aren’t necessarily paying attention to clients’ needs. Having worked in higher ed AV support roles, and many of my current clients being colleges and universities, I’ve experienced a large divide between how college administrators and faculty view these enhanced AV systems in classrooms.
Administrators at the helm of these classroom-upgrade projects love the idea of a flashy active-learning classroom with multiple displays, a complex control system, and elaborate matrix switching. As I dig deeper and meet with faculty members, I sometimes hear a lack of interest in these types of rooms, or outright opposition to being forced to teach in these environments. Some faculty believe that too much installed AV equipment will create more of a distraction for students, rather than aid in the learning process. More often than not, less is more when it comes to designing higher ed collaborative learning environments. Many times a handful of basic single-display huddle spaces in a library are of more interest than installing one very complex active-learning classroom. Administrators may still want to create a showcase active-learning classroom on their campus, but a thorough needs-analysis effort during the AV design process assures that all parties will have their voices heard, and the end product will be a classroom that meets the varying demands of all users.
Mike Tomei, CTS-D and CTS-I, is the owner of Tomei AV Consulting, LLC.