Emerging Technologies

Reimagine Education With AV

“Unless you have an engaged student, learning is out the door. It’s all about experience,” says Sharon Crawford, studio director for global design and architecture firm Gensler. Crawford was speaking during EDspaces 2019, a conference exploring the future of educational facilities. “There aren’t any ‘average’ learners now, so designing a space for this average learner is just a myth.”

reimagine AV

Project: Ventura College Applied Science Center | Architect and Designer: Gensler | Image Credit: Gensler/Ryan Gobuty

Crawford joined a panel discussion titled “Integrating the Digital with the Physical to Create the Campus of the Future,” moderated by AVIXA and including Ron Cramer, Strategic Learning consultant for the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Craig Park, principal at technology consulting firm The Sextant Group. The panel agreed that with audiovisual experiences what they are today, students arrive at college expecting a certain level of tech-enabled education, customized to fit the way they prefer to learn. To that end, workspaces must be designed to offer flexibility, including technology that can handle distance learning one day and interactive group collaboration the next.

“Students come with an expectation that technology will be available to them in the classroom,” says Park. “Older faculty, in many ways, don’t teach that way, so we’re at this point where students have a high degree of expectation for access, and it’s not yet been universally cooked into the pedagogical approach.”

BYOD to Campus

At many colleges and universities, that means blending students’ own digital devices into the learning experience. “Whatever the configuration in the space, for whatever the methodology the instructor was using, it had to support BYOD [bring your own device],” explained Cramer, referring to a study his team did of the classroom requirements for enabling digital- and audiovisual-based learning. In Wisconsin’s case, doing so led to a significant build-out of the school’s wireless network infrastructure, not only to handle data traffic from mobile devices, but also to support new types of wireless solutions, such as collaboration systems that allow faculty and staff to share information from their laptops on interactive displays or projection screens.

“So much of education has shifted to team-based learning experiences,” says Park. In order to allow students to work in cohorts of four to eight, he continues, college classrooms should be designed so people can easily connect to the available room technology. “More often than not, the complaint we get that prevents people from accepting new technology is, ‘Is it easy to connect to?’”

Tech-Friendly Spaces and Active Learning

Of course, the best and easiest-to-use digital technology does little for students and faculty if the physical classrooms aren’t designed with collaboration in mind. Increasingly, colleges are creating active-learning lecture halls, with tiered workspaces and distributed, shared displays for making small-group connections. When there’s no lecture, students turn their chairs to congregate in groups around the different displays and wirelessly share, annotate, and preserve digital information from mobile devices.

At the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Business, there’s even been a push to eliminate certain auditoria in favor of smaller, tech-enabled collaboration spaces. “There was a demand for small huddle spaces, six- to eight-person conference rooms, which they call ‘venture accelerators,’” Park says.

Looking ahead, the EDspaces panelists were eager to see how campuses would integrate artificial intelligence and other leading-edge technologies. For example, using voice control to activate presentation systems and navigate shared education resources could streamline information discovery and lead to new ways of learning. Studies indicate that technology-enabled, team-based learning leads to better learning outcomes. More digital information and the digital tools to put it to use should continue to revolutionize higher education.

“We’re going to see more data infusion, and that’s going to lead to greater personalized learning,” says Cramer. “But that won’t change the fact that we need to have shared experiences that help us learn as teams.”

AVIXA™ is the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association, which represents the $231-billion global commercial AV industry and produces InfoComm trade shows around the world. To find out more, visit www.avixa.org/higheredAV.

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2019 issue of Spaces4Learning.