Increasingly, colleges and universities are changing the way they address student learning, shifting from professor-led lecture and long hours in the library to active learning environments and a focus on collaborative learning both inside and outside of class.

One of the biggest drives I’ve encountered is students that are requesting more capabilities to work together when class is over, either to have a conversation about the material, study or work on a project. Traditionally, students wanting to meet together would have to do so without using technology, with the library often providing the sole source of schedulable group learning space. This meant the students would have to schedule a time to meet with each other, reserve the space in advance and then meet in a library to collaborate about what they were studying in class.

However, in recent years, more and more schools have found a new approach that has proven to be more effective from a learning perspective. This approach adds student learning huddles in the actual building where classes meet. These learning huddles are small and focused, with a few chairs for students, a single display and technology that allows the students to be able to share and collaborate. When students finish class, they can use a panel outside of the room to reserve it, go into the room and then spend an extra thirty or forty five minutes talking about the lecture or working on group projects. This provides a more natural avenue for students to actually share collaboratively and discuss their perspectives on what they’re learning.

Space Scheduling

Part of the power of these spaces is the ability to easily book them ad hoc outside the room. Because students don’t have access to any sort of room scheduling system, there normally isn’t an easy way to virtualize the scheduling of these spaces. While this is understandable when it comes to classrooms, it also means study space reservation has been a very manual process. With scheduling panels outside the learning huddles, students can easily reserve spaces on an ad hoc basis.

Let’s say we have a group of students that walk out of class and decide they want to discuss the topics in a little bit more detail. These learning huddles are now much closer because they’re part of the actual classroom building, so it’s very natural for them to walk up to one of these spaces and find somewhere to sit and talk. Students can look around and use the indicator lights on the panel to find an open space. They walk up to one of the rooms that are lit up “green,” and they can book right from the panel and using the “Book Room” button to reserve the space. The panels can tie into a scheduling system or calendar, but the students can only reserve huddle spaces using the panels outside the room. This provides the best balance of capabilities without giving students access they don’t need.

Sharing in the Classroom

Once inside the room, students find a display of somewhere between 48 and 55 inches with some type of connectivity that allows them to share content. There are typically wired options for connecting laptops using an AV table box like the AMX HydraPort, with retractable HDMI cables and power plugs available to simplify the process.

In addition to wired connections, in most cases we’re seeing also the need to do wireless content sharing without any wires and cables as well, and with a solution like the AMX Acendo Core, it’s phenomenally easy to share wirelessly from PC, Mac, iOS or Android devices. Androids and PCs can share content using Chromecast, while Macs and iOS devices use AirPlay. By using native screen sharing capabilities for these platforms, it’s easy for up to four students to share content to the display at the same time without needing to download specialized software.

Web Conferencing

Another strong demand from students that we’ve seen is the desire to collaborate remotely with other students who might not be in the room. So, these learning huddles are also built around providing the ability to use web conferencing as well. Students can connect to classmates in another building, in the dorm, or even on another campus (making it a great fit for out-of-class conversations in hybrid distance learning applications).

To facilitate this, the AMX Acendo Core allows students to quickly and easily connect to classmates without even needing to use their devices at all. The Core is open platform, so students can use whatever web-based platform they like (Google Hangouts, Zoom, etc.). If there is a platform the school standardizes on or uses most often, they can even create a favorite on the home screen, making it simple and easy to start a web conference.

To ensure everyone can be seen and heard clearly, a soundbar like the AMX Acendo Vibe can also be added. The Acendo Vibe includes JBL speakers, far-field microphones, and a wide-angle camera, providing quality sound and video image for students in the room and on the other end of the call. The combination of the Acendo Core platform and Acendo Vibe soundbar make for an easy, seamless experience for students.

The addition of easy to book and use learning huddles have become increasingly in high demand. In fact, schools are reporting that students start to use these rooms and then demand more of them, because they give them a place to meet and talk. Unlike a library, which is a quiet area not really suitable to having a conversation, learning huddles provide a private space where students can actually collaborate together and talk normally without disturbing others. Students can find and book an available space using the AMX Acendo Book, connect their devices using an AMX HydraPort or wirelessly using the AMX Acendo Core, and even collaborate with students in other places using Acendo Core and Acendo Vibe. In the end, students have a simple and intuitive experience that encourages impromptu collaborative learning and extends the learning experience outside of class.

Do you have experience designing learning huddles? Share your insights in the comments.

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