Creating the classroom of tomorrow

Child typing on laptop - learning post-pandemic
(Image credit: Photo Agency)

Rene Buhay, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at AVer Europe, the award-winning provider of education technology solutions, shares his thoughts on how schools can ensure learning can continue in a post-pandemic world.

About the author

Rene Buhay is Senior VP of Sales and Marketing at AVer Europe.

When COVID-19 struck the UK over a year ago, the lack of digital capability of many schools was exposed but teachers completed the herculean task of adjusting to distance learning. New technology, approaches and skillsets were required to ensure students stayed online and engaged.

Some schools would have been planning for gradual digitalization before the pandemic. But these long-term plans suddenly needed to become short-term actions to survive, and many administrators adapted admirably by accelerating digital transformation to reimagine education.

Education IT directors moved quickly to reconfigure everything for online access, from basic lesson plans to graduation ceremonies. These contingency plans worked well enough to enable learning in the short-term, but the question is what happens now and whether schools should return to the traditional methods they relied on before the pandemic.

How are education providers now transforming their approach as these challenges start to decrease?

While the classroom has been a familiar education setting to return to, it already looks very different - and not just because of testing or social distancing. There are a range of technological considerations that schools now have to navigate.

Institutions that were on the fence about digitally transforming their curriculums and facilities prior to the pandemic are more likely to embrace digital going forward. Teachers are likely to be more adept with technology due to their experience with distance learning over the past year, which will also bring changes to their teaching processes.

87% of the UK’s further and higher education providers state their perception of technology-enhanced learning is more positive now than it was before the pandemic. This shows that educators are also likely to be more interested in utilizing learning technology in their classes. Many teachers who were once passive about their education technology - simply using the few devices that the school forced upon them - will now actively seek more advanced solutions to help them teach, whether they’re doing so in hybrid classrooms or online classes.

What is one of the biggest technological barriers for education providers right now?

Many schools are afraid of being caught off guard again by unplanned disruptions – which is especially true in the competitive and profit-drive world of higher education. Digital transformation is now becoming a necessary means of survival as this new digital world requires educators to adapt and adopt digital technologies, methodologies and mindsets.

The increased interest and acceptance of learning technology provides an opportunity to reimagine education by developing an agile, innovative and future-focused hybrid learning system, which will transform the classroom.

What are some of the best solutions for teachers to prepare for the classroom following the pandemic?

Teachers have already returned to the classroom to find new challenges they did not have prior to the pandemic – in addition to learning new rules around social distancing, testing and bubbles. Finding a way to keep devices fully powered is one of these challenges. Many students have been using laptops and other devices from home to sign into lessons. Schools need to ensure they have the right infrastructure to charge these devices quickly and easily should the students bring these devices into the classroom, without having to rely on just power sockets. Now is the time to be investing in technology such as charging carts, so that students’ learning is not compromised.

New familiarity with platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams from distance learning creates opportunities for different approaches within the classroom and beyond. The audio and visual capabilities of built-in web cameras may have sufficed for an individual teaching or learning at home, but these microphones and cameras will now have to compete with more background noise and interruptions. Premium quality cameras with features such as 4K, back light compensation, AI features such as smart framing, audio framing and enhanced audio via beamforming technology will be needed to make the most of the platforms’ capabilities.

How can education providers participate in the hybrid model?

By preparing for eventualities where some students are physically based in the classroom and others are joining the session remotely, schools can be prepared for any set up in future. A big challenge that schools face today is making distance learning as effective and engaging as in-class learning and so getting the hybrid model right is critical. Flexible solutions in place for hybrid learning puts the emphasis on the students’ learning, ensuring that geography and technology do not have to be a barrier to their learning experience.

Many schools may have been using a combination of Zoom, MS Teams, Google Hangouts and other platforms to offer the best distance learning experience. It is important that any technology the school now invests in is certified for usage on all these platforms to avoid additional costs further down the line, or further interruptions in the students’ learning experience.

We are seeing priorities and criteria for education technology evolve as we come out of the pandemic, and auto tracking technology is gaining attention in support of hybrid learning. Web cameras provide limitations for teachers trying to juggle a lesson that is both livestreamed and being delivered physically in a classroom. Tracking technology uses artificial intelligence to ensure a camera is constantly capturing the presenter for livestreaming and can often be used to record and capture images too.

With the opportunity to utilize the recorded class material should any students not be able to attend, and no requirement for a camera operator, solutions like this provide flexibility and help will help teachers adapt to new situations to meet the needs of learners quickly and easily.

How can education providers accelerate digital transformation to create the classroom of tomorrow?

The key is to stay agile. Creating the classroom of tomorrow doesn’t mean you need to bulldoze the school building and move your entire operation to the cloud. It does mean that you should be able to move to the cloud at short notice, while capitalizing on digital resources in traditional brick-and-mortar classrooms and homework assignments.

Flexibility and hybrid models of learning are here to stay. Creating the classroom of tomorrow is no small task, but with the learnings gained this year during distance learning, unexpected changes and new experiences with technology, education institutions are now well placed to make the right decisions on which education technology will benefit students most when accelerating digital transformation.

Rene Buhay is Vice President of Sales & Marketing at AV manufacturer AVer Europe