In many countries, educational methods have remained unchanged for well over a century. Students have traditionally sat in front of a lecturer who writes notes on a board and talks to pupils, while they jot down their own notes. Even as recently as 2012, the MIT Technology Review asked: What’s been the single biggest innovation in education in the last 200 years? That question couldn’t be answered by most people either inside, or outside, the industry and today remains somewhat elusive.

However recently technology has been employed more widely to alter methods of teaching as schools and universities seek more effective techniques in a drive toward better student outcomes. Much of the technology is based upon audiovisual tools and methods that have been adapted from commercial applications or developed specifically for education.

EDU4Today’s students are far more familiar with visual technology and interactivity than previous generations and use it freely and regularly in their social lives, dipping into new areas of interest and communicating widely with friends and colleagues.

Educational establishments recognise this and are turning toward an active learning strategy that allows groups of students to learn together, under the direction of a teacher.

“Young students no longer appreciate the traditional classroom teaching methods as the only method of learning. They much prefer to collaborate and interact in small groups in a shared learning environment that is overseen and guided by the course tutor,” remarks Brian Davies, European Technical Director at AMX.

“At the University of Western Australia for example students work in six-seat pods with two screens and their own computers. The main screen presents material from the lecturer whilst the other links to their devices and allows them to share data and compare outcomes together. The teacher can access any device and distribute it to other pods.”

Kramer is also investing in collaborative learning technology and set up the Kramer Education Solutions Circle in early 2015, comprising AV professionals from leading academic institutions initiative to develop innovative education solutions.

The result, says Aviv Ron, VP of business development and strategy, resulted in the Kramer Collaborative Classroom: “A complete wireless classroom solution that combines advanced control and wireless presentation and collaboration with the convenience of BYOD. Students can share any file, collaborate on documents in real time and turn the group or main display into an interactive whiteboard. In addition, the teacher has full control of the room facilities as will as switching and sharing content around the class.”

EDU3Collaboration can extend to remote participants too. “Montage, a wireless collaboration hub allows off-campus students to be involved as naturally as if they were in the room: they can share content and communicate via video and voice,” explains Ed Morgan of DisplayNote Technologies.

“The lecturer and students can easily view, compare and analyse information from multiple sources and devices on one screen, providing everyone with the same information and reduce the risk of misunderstanding.

Many higher education establishments are taking advantage of video recording and streaming technology to make lectures available online: to their own students or a wider audience.

Rob Lipps, executive VP of Sales Sonic Foundry, maker of Mediasite, advises universities to consider simple recording and uploading of lectures as a first step in a longer process.

“We are continually asked about the concept of the future classroom and how to best deployed flipped instruction.”

He explains: “Flipped instruction involves students watching a pre-recorded lecture before class. This can result in a more engaging classroom experience where the presence of lecture recording relieves the pressure students may feel to take notes on everything being discussed. They can always watch the video after class for note taking and studying. However, flipped instruction is not yet widely adopted and cultural differences mean that what works in one country may not necessarily be as effective in another.

EDU3“We advise customers to take the simple initial step of recording lectures and making them available for students to review. It will then become clearer what tools they value. More universities, particularly in the West, are exploring the concept of student technology fees which are used to adopt technology which directly impacts the students. Through student involvement in such decision making, the technologies they value become more immediately apparent and can influence future funding decisions. Video is often on their short list.”

IP video solution provider Exterity has experienced growing demand for video distribution systems in the Asia region, as Colin Farquhar, Chief Executive Officer explains: “Online lecture recordings can be combined with a rich library of content to support the learning process,” he says. “The integration of these resources into the student environment is becoming more common. Content can be delivered to students over the campus LAN and WAN to their halls of residence direct to their own devices within a full TV and video entertainment service that also carries foreign language services, personal communication and news updates as an integrated service.”

LCD screens are rapidly becoming larger and thinner, increasing their suitability for use as whiteboards, especially as educational establishments look to replace first generation units.

EDU2NEC’s range of touch screens with ShadowSense extends up to 98” and delivers fast response that responds to multiple objects touches of different sizes, including pens, erasers and fingers. The analogue sensing system rejects accidental touches from palms and clothing, even in brightly-lit classrooms in direct sunlight.

Despite the growing attractiveness of large flat panel displays there is a strong demand for projection equipment.

Penny Wilkinson from Optoma explains the benefits: “Large, interactive, ultra wide screen projection equipment provides an ideal mechanism for multiple student interaction and this will be enhanced with higher resolutions that allow more information to be displayed to facilitate collaboration as students expect iPad-like response from displays.”

“Interactive projectors are able to easily achieve much bigger screen sizes of up to 100” without a huge price tag compared to flat panel displays. This allows every student in the classroom, even the ones sitting in the last row, to clearly see the interactive projector screen,” says Siew Jin Kiat, Regional General Manager, Epson Singapore.

“Teachers and students alike are generally intrigued by the interactive projector functions. However, while there is growing adoption of interactive projectors in the education sector, there are still barriers to adoption: there is a lack of awareness of interactive learning in Asia, as compared to schools in US. Education budgets and investment costs are also major concerns for the region.”

Casio UST at Manchester University.
Casio UST at Manchester University.

New features and specifications are adding to the attractiveness of projectors in education, as Phil Clark, head of projectors, Casio UK explains: “Ultra Short Throw projector models are top selling products within the higher education environment as they generate an image of 80” from a distance of just 27cm. This means the light doesn’t shine in the presenters eyes making it a much more comfortable presenting experience.”

“Remote management is a desirable feature that can reduce maintenance overheads or time spent walking around a site to switch off products at the end of the day. This has been a strong focus for Casio. Solid state light engines, with a 5 year or 10,000 hour warranty, well above the lifetime of any lamp, are accelerating the trend towards solid state projection and this will continue over the next three years, with these units needing significantly less maintenance and having increased reliability.”

Whilst we cannot easily answer the question about the single biggest innovation in education, we can, as Duncan Peberdy, international consultant for active learning spaces believes, respond that: “the combination of several AV technologies in new ways to create full-participation collaborative learning environments in higher education has undoubtedly contributed to radical improvement in student outcomes: in significantly broadening and deepening students’ understanding of their subjects. It has the added advantage of introducing them to participatory methods of business operations and consequently enhances their future employability.”

*This article was originally published in Systems Integration Asia Dec 2015- Jan 2016.