March 1, 2023
5 min read
While most colleges and universities had to quickly pivot to “good enough” technology to support hybrid classes during the pandemic, an increasing number are realizing that the “Consumer” or “Prosumer” products purchased as a band-aid to get them thru the pandemic are sub-optimal, especially now that the hybrid in-person / remote education experience is here to stay. The quest is on for many universities to upgrade their technology so they can provide a better hybrid and blended class experience that delivers upon the promise of equity of education & flexibility for students, while being easy to use for faculty.
A 2022 survey of two and four-year colleges and universities noted that 90% of schools combined online and campus-based learning. Over 99% of the report’s respondents believe the typical student experience will include at least some online learning by 2025.
The shift to hybrid learning has spurred investments in technologies supporting synchronous teaching online, such as video conferencing software, said the report. Tech investment will likely continue as educators further embrace hybrid learning to enhance and expand on what they already have in place. Almost a third of respondents viewed technology for online learning as a high priority for the coming year.
The more accessible, intuitive, and immersive colleges and universities can make their online experiences, the better. How can they use technology in the classroom to meet the challenge head-on? The technologies supporting this new breed of high-quality education environments span three broad areas: sound, vision, and connectivity.
Sound: Clear and Reliable Audio Capture
Ubiquitous coverage is important when looking for high-quality microphones for higher ed environments. Let’s face it -- most the acoustics in most classrooms are not optimal for speech intelligibility and equity of the learning experience when everyone is physically located inside the classroom. Now, with today’s breadth of learning environments, lecturers must make themselves heard in crystal-clear quality both inside the venue, to presentation overflow rooms and for online streaming.
Microphones must accommodate lecturers walking around a large room or hall and students repositioning into different working groups. Panasonic Connect offers a variety of microphone solutions, including wearable, desk and podium units with push-to-talk options that serve various classroom configurations.
Panasonic WX-SR200P digital wireless microphone system use encrypted DECT technology to transmit over the 1.9GHz spectrum and features a distributed architecture with built-in antenna distribution system for up to 8 antennas. Each antenna connects to a single wireless receiver via a cable up to 200 feet long, enabling adequate sound coverage from the smallest classrooms to the largest lecture halls. Better yet, the range of the antennas is adjustable, allowing for coverage in the area that is required without blasting the entire campus with RF signals.
Vision: Crystal clear video
Quality sound requires equally good vision, which calls for advanced camera technology. Classroom cameras must go beyond high-quality imagery to support fast-changing education spaces where lecturers and students frequently move around the room.
Panasonic Connect has a long history of PTZ camera leadership and provides a wide range of cameras with ultra-high-definition resolution to suit every education environment. Panasonic point, tilt, and zoom (PTZ) cameras can focus on the smallest whiteboard drawing without losing detail, pan around to follow lecturers as they pace, and capture interactions with students. Select models also feature Panasonic’s direct drive technology to provide whisper quiet operation as the camera effortless pivots to focus on the subject in the room.
Rather than dedicate a technician to manage cameras for every class session, look for automation solutions that will follow speakers around the room for you. All Panasonic Connect PTZ cameras are compatible with Panasonic’s auto-tracking software, which provides best-in-class facial and torso tracking to keep track of the professor, not others who may be walking in front of them (like a teacher’s assistant). Panasonic’s LCS100 Lecture Capture software includes facial & torso-tracking capabilities to keep all eyes on the speaker — no matter where they move or if a teacher’s assistant moves in front of the teacher.
Vision: High-quality projectors and displays
High-quality recordings are only as good as the equipment used to display them. State-of-the-art projectors present images to those on-site or online while making every pixel pop. Consider resolution in your projector solution: 4K offers crystal-clear images that make it easier to see text and image detail.
Interactive features turn projectors from simple display systems into an enhanced form of digital whiteboards. For example, the Panasonic PT-CMZ50 projector has varying input signals that make it ideal for collaborative platforms like MS Teams and Zoom. And, the ultra-short-throw projector allows presenters to share information confidently without worrying about on-screen shadows or being blinded by light from the lens.
Sound — the lack thereof — is also an important consideration in a classroom or lecture hall projector. Panasonic projectors feature a quiet mode for reduced noise, allowing students to hear lecturers without disruption.
Large-format displays are an excellent complement to projectors for smaller environments such as classrooms and collaboration rooms or even for large auditoriums where students seated in the back sections require visual confirmation of material presented at the front of the classroom. Look for features like high brightness levels and technologies such as high dynamic range (HDR), which render all images as realistically as possible.
Images should also be viewable from a wide angle. In-plane switching (IPS) displays stay bright and sharp even for viewers positioned off to the side, ensuring everyone in the classroom gets the same high-quality experience.
Displays should also make consuming and displaying media easy for all students physically seated in the classroom, especially if they find themselves sitting in the rear of the classroom. Displays are also increasingly used as confidence monitors for faculty as well as to better see the students attending the class remotely.
Consumer displays, while inexpensive, are not a good fit for a classroom environment due to the high traffic and long hours of runtime. Panasonic’s large, bright displays use professional-grade display plans built with 24/7 operation in mind.
Connectivity: Live streaming
How can educators transmit high-quality audio and video to remote students? Offering students live AV streams and the ability to interact in real time gives lecturers the options they need to support a range of flexible learning models.
Panasonic Connect’s Lecture Capture solution is Panopto certified which means it can be configured to output IP-based video to stream live over the Panopto service to distribute it to students.
Alternatively for campuses that leverage Zoom or Zoom Rooms, Panasonic Connect’s Zoom-certified cameras can also integrate quickly with Zoom videoconferencing and collaboration sessions between multiple remote students and classroom environments.
For more sophisticated multi-camera environments, consider a video-switching solution as part of your technology line-up. It enables educators to switch between multiple cameras in real time, providing a dynamic multiview IP stream for hybrid students remotely accessing live or recorded video.
As the race to modernize education continues, technology will play a central part in crafting future-facing higher ed experiences. Tomorrow’s lecture hall will extend everywhere, from the campus to the coffee shop. High-quality AV and collaboration solutions will help schools, colleges, and universities serve all students wherever they are.
Connectivity: Full Ecosystem Integration:
If anything that pandemic has accelerated, it is the need for all A/V devices to be able to be connected together into our ecosystem for easy operability by faculty and easy monitoring and maintenance by IT. Some call it the renaissance of IoT for professional use, but let’s face it nearly all Pro A/V Devices have some sort of ethernet connection on them. IT departments and commercial integrators alike are quite adept at integrating these networked devices with varying protocols for easy of deployment, use, monitoring and service.
At Panasonic, we see a bright future for true plug-and-play interoperability of A/V devices over the network and you’ll see some exciting additions to our products and our ecosystem in the coming year.