When universities closed their doors around the globe at the onset of the pandemic, there was little time for IT teams to plan for the new way of teaching. Through trial and error, new ways of teaching were adopted. But now, it is time to look at a more permanent solution.
Virtual and blended classes have downsides, but also undeniable advantages. And no matter what the future brings, the attention for a safe campus will stay.
The pandemic has created a need for universities to improve their technology and communications. Unified Communications (UC) platforms and their usage for virtual classes are at an all-time high. In 2020, usage of Microsoft Teams and Zoom grew exponentially. However, the cameras, mics, and speakers built into most laptops are typically not sufficient for the collaboration needed in the future. Both the classrooms and meeting rooms need to be equipped with advanced technology that supports the teach-and-learn-from-anywhere movement.
Adding UC Technology
Making the right technology choices is critical for universities to remain productive, as well as to be able to handle the uncertain future of the pandemic. To create a blended, hybrid environment, any type of room, from classrooms and aulas to meeting spaces and private offices, can be easily upgraded with UC technologies. Or existing displays can be retrofitted with solutions that feature superior audio and video quality in order to enhance the experience for remote students or teachers. Providing native integration with popular services, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams is important to effectively support virtual classes and to provide an experience that most faculty and students are accustomed to.
Crestron delivers an array of UC collaboration technologies and personal communication devices that can create a productive remote or on-campus teaching environment. When users connect to one of the new advanced systems from the Crestron Flex line, the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) capabilities allow the camera, speakers, and mics in the room to be leveraged for the class. Instantly, they can join teaching sessions via Zoom, Teams, Google, WebEx, and more. Crestron Flex transforms any classroom into a virtual classroom, guaranteeing that the call and video conferencing quality will be better than ever for students.
But teaching comfortably is about more than just the collaboration technology; it’s crucial to be able to manage the rest of the environment without having to touch shared surfaces. Scheduling panels and visual indicators are effective tools that help staff see which rooms are available and which classes or meeting rooms are booked. Crestron’s Room Scheduling Panels enable faculty to easily book their room directly through Outlook. And then, within seconds, it shows that the panel has turned red and the user can walk in and take their classroom or meeting room without anyone interrupting them. Once inside, as the room detects presence via ceiling-mounted motion detectors, the low touch/no touch orientation continues.
Crestron recently launched the Crestron ONE™ mobile app for room control, enabling users to insert a QR code right on the touch panel. Crestron ONE uses Bluetooth technology to discover and connect to rooms that have been set up for mobile device control, eliminating the need to connect to the campus network. Now, any teacher entering a building can take their personal device, such as their phone or tablet, and scan the QR code. All of the controls – the volume, lights, shades, and climate, etc on the communal touch panel – have now just been transferred onto their personal device from the QR code.
Another product under the Crestron portfolio that enables touchless teaching includes the Crestron AirMedia® wireless presentation system, which allows users to share their content directly from a personal device without the need to touch a screen. This can be easily deployed with Crestron XiO Cloud®, an IoT based software for safe remote assistance and management of Crestron and third-party technology. Coupled with a camera with built-in people counting technology, XiO Cloud can be set to automatically send an alert when the room occupancy exceeds the set limit.
Being able to manage all aspects of the learning environment while touching no device but your own, is essential for the campus of the future. Crestron understands that technology in classrooms, where collaboration and interaction are key, will need to evolve to meet the new reality. That is why Crestron is committed to delivering new innovations now and well into the future that meet the needs of their customers globally.