More than an education, it’s a lifestyle
Prospective university students today have a vast and varied array of courses available to them. The process of whittling down to one or two preferred courses is subject to many influences. The location of study is often as important as the course itself.
Gaining a qualification is the ultimate end game, but the journey is equally important. Students aren’t just seeking an education; they’re choosing a lifestyle. This rite of passage holds great expectation, and it is to be hoped that the 2022 cohort get everything they dreamed of.
AV teams within higher education must be applauded. It has been a 2 year long roller-coaster, and it’s not over yet - moving to remote learning one minute, then receiving instruction to get students back on site, with all manner of ‘hybrid’ and ‘blended’ combinations in between. Covid-safety related uncertainties continue, added to which there are component shortages, shipping delays and subsequent long lead times to contend with . . .
Whilst navigating this uncertain landscape, universities remain firmly committed to maintaining high quality teaching and learning, and the AV provision is a vital enabler to achieving this. Attracting and retaining students in this current climate is business-critical, and universities are pulling out all the stops to reassure prospective students that they are ready to deliver on expectation.
Jonathan Cooper, Sharp NEC Display Solutions Europe sales consultant for higher education, assesses the current situation and how AV managers are addressing the future of education provision.
All change in spending patterns
AV managers have had a very important role to play in researching the options available to deliver learning during times of complete and partial lockdown. They have been required to put forward investment plans and procure new technology at very short notice to enable first class learning to be delivered.
After the initial need for communicating social distancing measures and safety precautions required for students and staff, educators have had to accelerate their distance / blended learning approaches with procurement earlier than originally planned. Some education establishments had already been adopting a more varied range of teaching methods so had some experience of what worked well and what did not.
It is to be hoped that September 2022 will see students fully back on campus, enjoying that longed for lifestyle, and whatever new level of blended in-person and remote teaching is required, AV teams are in a good position to provide the necessary support.
What is required of AV to support all eventualities?
New requirements have tended to focus on how a lecture is recorded and the ability to bring in subject matter via document cameras or similar devices to aid the lecturer in a pure broadcast situation. The tools available should help the lecturer relax and be able to communicate in an effective way. Projection equipment which is silent in operation is important to ensure a quality experience for lecture capture where microphones are often installed on the ceiling mount right next to the projector.
For small meeting blended environments with circa 4 students in-person during lessons with others attending remotely, it is important to consider how remote attendees can engage actively in discussions. The set up must support a format which enables students to see their peers during a seminar, whilst managing the ‘event’ to ensure that certain rules of engagement are followed, ie, 10 attendees do not all speak at once.
Picture taken by Bettina Ausserhofer
High quality audio and video technology ensures the best possible learning experience for all, bridging the gap between distance and face-to-face teaching, whilst delivering long-life reliable performance and low cost of ownership. Collaborative tools have become particularly important, and the constant topic of bandwidth is not to be underestimated.
Environmental elements have become a very important consideration for those physically attending a lesson or lecture, both students and teachers, requiring good ventilation and air quality standards. Keeping doors and windows open has become a common requirement but the colder months will need a different approach.
To this end, smart displays are spiking interest. Smart displays use sensor technology to monitor environmental parameters and usage stats allowing universities to report on air quality, humidity and room capacity etc. This data enables them to work with their estates teams to improve the learning environment and even synchronise data with building management systems.
AV Managers are not on their own
Informal networking between university AV managers has become more important than ever. Experiences are shared and the good, the bad and the ugly of a possible option can be debated and discussed. The Learning and Teaching Spaces Managers Group (LTSMG), is an active community of higher education AV technologists & learning space designers providing welcome advice and discussion amongst its 400+ members. We are proud to be working with LTSMG as they influence the development of AV in higher education.
At Sharp/NEC, our quality products and industry leading support ensures our customers enjoy maximum ‘up-time’. Alongside this, our dedicated team of education sales specialists and product managers work hard to support customers through the universally challenging landscape of product delays and shortages.
Keeping channel partners, whether Distributors or Integration Partners, informed regarding product availability is a key element which we take very seriously.
In some cases, this has necessitated new products being brought to market swiftly, and finding innovative ways to keep popular products rolling, to fill gaps due to key component shortages which are affecting the whole market.
Key products for higher education
Smart touch display for small group collaboration
The new NEC WD551 Windows Collaboration Display supports interactive engagement in small group learning and meeting spaces enabling students to connect their own laptop or tablet device and interact using already familiar tools. The beauty of this product is that it just works! Its success is in its simplicity. Students connect with their peers and mentors, collaborate with experts and forge links with industry without physical barriers for the most enriching learning experiences.
In addition, this smart display incorporates IoT room sensors to automatically switch the display on or off, whilst providing vital air quality and room occupancy data to feed a university’s room management system, optimising space usage, and monitoring environmental parameters.
dvLED large surface displays
Direct view LED technology, whilst a relative newcomer, is fast becoming a mainstream technology, with its impressively long-life cycle and low power consumption, it meets the demands of sustainability targets yet delivers more in terms of visual impact.
NEC dvLED solutions are being specified for university campuses for bespoke 4K resolution lecture theatre screens. In entrance halls with high ambient light levels, NEC FHD 110” dvLED display in portrait orientation is being used to create a high impact welcome for visitors.
Two new value-oriented NEC dvLED ranges (E Series and FE-E Series) bring the latest extended-life technology with Sharp/NEC’s trusted quality to the budget-sensitive education sector. With high brightness, almost no reflection and deep contrasts, seamlessly scalable to fit the available space in seminar rooms and lecture halls, dvLED offers a compelling opportunity for higher education.
Laser projection for lecture halls
Continuing to deliver exceptional versatility and maintenance-free performance, the NEC P, PA and PX ranges of laser projectors deliver teaching material in vivid clarity and no disturbance from fan noise with super-silent operation. With brightness options ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 ANSI there is a projector (and lens) combination to suit every learning need. Projection continues to offer a cost-effective solution for large screen presentations with minimal servicing and great flexibility with interchangeable lenses and edge blending options.
Exclusively for the education sector, conveniently supporting standard refresh programs, Sharp/NEC’s laser projectors and large format displays bring peace of mind with a 5-year warranty.
Campus-wide signage for student outreach
The latest NEC MESSAGE line up of Large Format Displays supports slot-in options for standards-based communication technologies. Through our partnership with BirdDog we can offer an SDM-based AV streaming signage solution powered by NDI technology meaning it is now much easier to get any source from any room, to anywhere else on campus, or even remotely, meaning many more students can be communicated to in real time.
Our expertise doesn’t just stop at the display itself but in sharing the contents of that display far and wide.
We expect the higher education AV sector to perform well in the coming years and the recently announced joint venture between Sharp and NEC Display Solutions will enable us to offer the best solutions for the future – in desktop, large format displays (with or without interactivity), installation projection and dvLED. Our accompanying solutions with SDM computing and RPi also provide a compelling offering for the AV managers of today and tomorrow.