AV technology: Transforming higher education

Carl Sheen, head of training and development at Genee World, explores the way AV technology has transformed the HE sector

The evolution of technology has been a catalyst for effective teaching and learning. For the higher education (HE) sector, technology is at the heart of the curriculum, aiming to prepare learners for their future careers.

Audio visual (AV) technology has become an intrinsic and vital part of delivering an effective HE course, and it plays an essential role for students who want to unlock the door to true success.

The variety of options for teachers and learners to generate ideas, boost collaboration and streamline processes are extensive and far reaching and are an essential part of learning today. AV technology gives everyone in HE a host of new options that they can utilise to take their work to the next level. The technology provides an important opportunity to improve meetings, bolster group work through collaborative software and step-up organisation and note-taking skills with solutions that store ideas and information all in one place.

Helping staff to help the students

We’re often told that HE staff have ever-increasing ‘to-do’ lists. Tasks such as preparation for lectures, marking and data assessment can build quickly, and it can be challenging to prioritise workloads. Having the right AV software and edtech tools can help to alleviate this and, crucially, it can make lesson delivery a lot more effective for both staff and students.

At the forefront for any education provider is the importance of the student experience. Increasingly, technology is embedded in the curriculum to heighten, emphasise and improve the learning experience of every student, and this is most true at HE level. Students expect a certain amount of technology now. It permeates their day-to-day life, so it’s important for education providers to deliver an ‘all accessible’ experience for students.

When identifying the software and tools that would be most valuable for an HE environment, it’s important to consider what is going to have an impact on teaching and learning, as well as streamlining processes. For example, by using cloud-based software and virtual learning environments (VLEs), teachers can share classroom material online, giving themselves and students the ability to access work wherever and whenever they need to.

Software that assists lecturers and teachers with their lesson delivery has huge and wide-ranging benefits with different functionalities addressing any specific problems they may encounter.

When it comes to delivering lessons and lectures, AV technology helps to facilitate much greater interactivity and collaboration. This kind of software offers a new way for educators to create and present lessons, makes it easier for work to be sent directly to students’ devices, introduces the potential for new activities in teaching, and facilitates easier teacher-student communication. Equally, hardware like interactive screens can be used to deliver team presentations and group work.

Not only is this a more fun and engaging route for learners, but it also gives educators the opportunity to track progression and understanding. If there’s a learner who perhaps isn’t quite getting the same answers as everyone else in the class, teachers can discreetly monitor and address the issue to prevent complete disengagement with a subject.

Personalising learning

Teachers and lecturers also now recognise the need to differentiate learning. It is, of course, important in HE for educators to ensure that all students are performing to the best of their abilities and that lesson content is targeted to students’ individual needs and learning styles, as well as addressing the wider needs of the curriculum. It is also extremely important to ensure that students understand all the concepts and ideas they are being taught before moving on to other topics. To achieve this, and to deliver lessons in a way that not only caters for multiple learning styles, but also engages audiences, AV technology can be invaluable. For instance, using tablet devices or interactive screens can provide an array of opportunities for tasks to be tackled in different ways, at different levels according to a student’s understanding; if a learner needs to present what they learnt during work experience or placements, some may wish to document this as a video while others might prefer to take images and write-up their experience.

Using software like this will streamline planning, support students’ learning styles and abilities and ensure the whole lesson delivery process is more efficient.

Giving students the best chances possible

It is important, of course, for lecturers to be given the best resources possible but it is equally important, if not more so, for students to have all the resources they need to be successful. What can really make a difference to students’ learning is software that allows them to collaborate, share work and connect with peers (both within their university and from others across the world) to learn and create shared projects. This presents students with a different style of learning and develops skills including teamwork, as well as making learning and studying more convenient for those who might need encouragement.

Interactive, innovative teaching tools give students the opportunity to get hands on, helping them to become more engaged with activities and cementing modules and concepts more deeply. These tools also enable students to learn from places other than the lecture hall. For example, students who struggle to attend lectures because of physical or social differences now have the option to engage with the class as if they are actually in the room. Students can also take part in study groups from various locations and continue to learn around the clock in a way that suits them most effectively.

The HE sector requires technology that is user-friendly, highly scalable, flexible and able to cope with the intense and varied demands that an ever-growing number of learners has to throw at it. Most of these learners will digest information best when they are having a discussion and talking through difficult concepts and subjects rather than listening to one person talking about the subject. AV hardware and software creates an open dialogue and helps explore challenging topics in a more visually appealing way – for example in live video discussions, interactive quizzes and audio clips.

Having the right hardware to complement software

Today’s students are also consumers, so technology providers are having to offer the best service, facilities and – most importantly – resources possible, to attract the very best students. Universities need to be able to offer them the same thing. And while having all the right software is important, so is having the right hardware to complement it.

Interactive touchscreens are an essential part of classroom teaching and lectures. Lecturers often have a huge volume of information that needs to be conveyed and, for most learners, some visual representation of this information will be essential. There is a variety of ways lecturers can use their hardware, whether they are using a presentation, creating mind maps with the group’s help, or playing videos to explain a point. However, the hardware should be top quality; 4k screens that are as clear for those at the back of the lecture hall as they are for those sitting in the front row.

Similarly, the use of tablets and interactive audience response systems is a key tool to bring another important dimension to teaching in seminars or lecture halls. Audience response systems are a great way to make lectures and presentations more interactive and are a useful tool to gather a collective audience opinion.

Carl Sheen

Looking forward

Looking at the future of the HE sector and the role technology will play, many experts would like to see technology completely embedded within the wider structure of each institution or university. Looking beyond the role of technology solely within teaching and learning, it can also prove a useful way for educators to collate, retain and distribute information.

Using technology within the classroom is now vital to encourage the development of key skills needed for the future. Students don’t just appreciate technology in the classroom; it is now becoming a necessity! Not only is it fun and engaging, but it provides learners with the ability to tailor their learning to what works best for them, anytime, anywhere.

For more on Genee World, visit geneeworld.com

Tips for investing in AV
When confronted with a huge selection of AV technology, there are a few things to consider before investing all that money…
●  The biggest challenge is knowing when to invest and take the plunge. If you are experiencing difficulty and find yourself moaning about the performance of your tech, it is quite likely that it is time to invest in something new and revitalise your working environment
●  Think about what you really need. Make a list of all the different things you want it to do and ensure that what you buy fulfils all these needs. Remember that the right technology is subjective; the wrong technology isn’t. Slow, difficult to use and overly complex resources will be a hindrance rather than being helpful
●  Go for something that is modern and fits the infrastructure of your institution! This year’s cohort of students are the first generation that were born into a fully digital world. They did not have to deal with slow dial-up internet and they have come to expect state-of-the-art tech. Therefore, universities should be making clever choices to invest in up-to-date tech that will last and stay relevant and useful for a good amount of time
●  Finally, make sure you are getting a good deal. Some companies will offer you a year’s free subscription to their software when you buy their hardware. This is a great way of testing out new things and getting a little extra bang for your buck!
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