AV Needs to Adapt to Higher Education Trends. Here’s why.

The need for presentation and lecture tools that reach hundreds of students in large classrooms has created a storied past for AV technology in higher education. Though tools such as projectors and audio systems remain commonplace in many lecture halls, the role of AV in higher education institutions is quickly changing.

In a recent survey conducted by the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, members of the higher education community highlighted items such as online learning, learning space designs and next-generation learning environments as key issues in today’s post-secondary teaching and learning.

So, what does this mean for AV technology? As higher education faculty look for products and services to support their instructional needs, they’ll turn to options that facilitate both mobile and active learning.

In eCampus News’ roundup of higher education trends for 2017, Stephen Downes of the National Research Council dubbed 2016 as “The Year of Video.” Live streaming events and lecture capture boomed in the past year, drawing attention to campus video management and hosting services.

The move to blended and flipped learning models is a contributing factor to the uptake of video in higher education environments. These models combine both face-to-face and technology-based instruction. In a flipped classroom, students access course content such as videos outside of class, and use in-class time for active and collaborative learning. The 2017 NMC Horizon Report on higher education identified blended learning designs and collaborative learning as trends that will drive ed tech adoption in the next one to two years.

With this focus on using video capture to expand the reach of lectures, recording equipment will become integral to post-secondary educators’ technology toolbox. As students receive curricular content in online formats, they’ll need clear and understandable audio and visual components.

AV providers selling to the higher education market should focus on marketing tools such as headsets and microphones to institutions that have turned to blended learning models. In particular, microphones that are adaptable to both voice recording and in-class announcements will be useful to tech-innovative instructors.

As collaborative, peer-to-peer activities take hold in classrooms that once focused on traditional lectures, AV needs are changing. Campus Technology recently took the pulse of what’s trending in higher education AV, and stated that "collaboration is driving AV upgrades."

Whether students and instructors are collaborating virtually or in person, recent technology transformations are supporting these efforts. Instructors are in need of resources like web conferencing services, interactive whiteboards, and wireless mirroring tools.

With wireless options, an instructor is free to roam the classroom to promote a more active learning environment. While students are working in groups, the instructor can remotely change the display on a smart whiteboard, or conduct screen mirroring on a tablet to show information on their desktop to students at a table.

One challenge cropping up in collaborative learning environments is how to manage multiple presentations at once. Students are often working on different projects within groups, which can lead to a surplus of sound from various sources. Instructors who are encouraging collaboration will need to consider their speaker and presentation needs if multiple activities are happening simultaneously.

As post-secondary institutions transition to online and collaborative models of learning, AV providers will need to be nimble in their education offerings. I have outlined three questions that AV developers and marketers can ask themselves as they plunge into the future of higher education innovations.

Do our solutions address AV needs both inside and outside of the classroom?
Instruction is no longer tethered to the classroom. For instructors who are presenting to both an in-class audience and an online feed, solutions that facilitate recording and real-time presenting will be especially enticing.

How can our products make educational content more shareable?
Both blended and collaborative learning initiatives promote the sharing of knowledge, often through digital assets. Members of the higher education community will want AV solutions that make sharing content and working together on creative projects a smoother process.

What challenges will instructors face in implementation?
With any technology transformation, educators have to consider the implementation and training needs of new purchases. Be sure your team is ready to answer any implementation questions when providing newfangled AV equipment to a higher education institution. By considering these questions and understanding the evolving needs of faculty, AV providers can ensure a continued, fruitful relationship with higher education institutions.

Scott Evans is the marketing manager of Califone, a leader in the design and development of AV equipment for education.