Distance learning has drastically shifted the way schools educate students. The internet has opened the availability of education to people anywhere in the world. All it takes is an internet connection to allow any student to connect with global classmates and join in the learning process. The possibilities of distance learning are endless, and universities are adopting it at a rapid pace. In fact, one in four students already takes at least one distance learning course.
It takes a wide range of powerful technology to fully capture what goes on inside a classroom and share that content with students around the world, and incorporating that technology into a classroom effectively and without disruption can be challenging. This is particularly true for hybrid distance learning classes.
A hybrid distance learning classroom allows professors to share content with students live in the classroom as well as students either viewing live online in a remote location and watching later in a time-shifted format. This presents additional challenges when compared with classes designed specifically for online viewing—with custom-made online course materials and canned “professor speaking to camera” lecture videos. Instead, a hybrid distance learning class combines a traditional class (with students attending in person) and instruction captured in the classroom that is then shared with learners viewing the class and completing coursework remotely. This hybridization of traditional and online instruction can save costs and provide fuller, more engaging classes, but can also present some unique challenges to professors and AV system designers alike.
The root cause of these challenges is the fact that not everyone is having the same experience—students in the room have the benefit of being in the room. They can see and hear the presenter without the aid of technology. If they use technology in the classroom, it is either to share course materials or to help students in a large classroom see and hear better, essentially supporting what students can see and hear already. This purpose is apparent right in the name for these technologies—sound reinforcement and image magnification (IMAG). These technologies simply reinforce what students can already hear and magnify what they can already see.
Online students don’t have the benefit of being in the room and have a completely different set of requirements for audio and video. Unfortunately, distance learning technology doesn’t often provide the flexibility to provide students in the room their optimal experience while also providing students viewing remotely the “in-room experience” they wouldn’t elsewise have because they aren’t actually in the room. The goal of distance learning technology in this setting is to replicate everything students in the room are experiencing and share that with remote students. This means capturing the audio and video of the course materials as well as the classroom environment, combining the two into a single audio/video stream, and then uploading that content to a distance learning platform that delivers it to students.
To help universities address these challenges and provide a consistent experience to all students regardless of location, HARMAN has created the Distance Learning Design Guide, the essential guide for planning hybrid distance classrooms.
Do you have insights on how to allow any classroom to double as a distance learning classroom? Share them in the comments.