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3 Challenges Faced by University AV Teams, SCHOMS 2019

Over the last 10 years technology and connectivity has come on in leaps and bounds. Students now demand, quite reasonably, to be able to work and collaborate in smarter ways. Collaboration areas, learning areas and working areas for students are more complex than ever before. There is also an expectation that higher education (HE) should provide as good or better AV facilities than industry.

Zioxi was lucky enough to be involved in the annual Schoms event this year (Schoms is a pedagogic direction and innovative design body in the UK for HE). We attended an eye opening round table entitled “AV for Higher Education” chaired by Clive Couldwell.

GOOD NEWS – on the whole, Clive says HE does tend to lead in this area against industry!


Clive introduced some great topics which warped and morphed as people contributed. Here are three of the major themes that emerged:

Involving Students in Learning Space Design

A major theme within the conversation was around how to involve students in learning space design. People talked about involving students on the committee for new design projects, others were worried that they wouldn’t turn up or wouldn’t commit. This was countered with the idea that you should pay students on committees to ensure commitment.

There was also the question of user experience design and design thinking. One account was from a university who have created a design test room, where outgoing students are invited to test new learning environments and are observed and questioned about their experiences. From a design thinking point of view this is great. It allows the designers to test and justify their design against set criteria before major spending on new projects. This clearly takes some serious planning and internal communications to achieve, but it is something that all HE AV teams can consider.


University Distance Learning Infrastructure

There is some resistance to distance learning because of the investment universities have made in their buildings and infrastructure. From a learning perspective there is necessity for students to have direct contact and feedback from lecturers. Peer to peer learning and group discussion also holds huge importance and many students must use specialist equipment within their course structure which ties them to campus. There were some fantastic examples like the use of mock up court rooms for law degrees and the use of high realism surgical virtual reality that would not be available at home.

Many courses are beginning to offer distance learning with audio and visual being captured and made available online. Filming and sharing course material can be tricky and adds another element to the AV team’s overall responsibilities. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that it is crucial to have easy to use equipment that provides crystal clear audio.

A great example was the 2018 installation of AV equipment for distance learning at Buffalo University of Engineering and Applied Science in the United States. High definition 360 degree microphones where installed into the ceiling of learning spaces with acoustic echo cancellation and noise cancellation with adaptive ambience software. This allows distance students to be able to hear the lecturer as well as student questions and discussions in high definition. Distance students were also able to contribute to group discussions by industry leading conference systems, thus allowing some possibility for peer to peer learning and direct tutor feedback in these scenarios.


Collaboration Design

Clive Couldwell voiced strong opinions about the space we were in. It was one of Bournemouth University’s collaborative learning spaces. It was a classic collaboration desk set up with 4 or 5 large tables with connectivity that would allow students to share their work digitally with peers and tutors on the screen at the end of the table and presumably at the front of the room.

Are we just trying to allow students to share work and ideas with digital connectivity or are we trying to do more? Clive went on to talk about a few industry leading examples and design figures. Jeff Fairbanks from Bloomberg being the one that stuck out. Jeff is the person who designs the user experience ecosystem at Bloomberg and considered by Clive to be the leading voice in this space. This lead to Clive’s conclusion that well considered, professional design and user experience research was money well spent.

zioxi have been designing award winning collaborative learning spaces for over 30 years, to find out more about the free zioxi design service click here.