By Gabi Shriki – SVP, Head of Audio-Video Business, Valens – Inventors of HDBaseT
During 2020, in a scramble to set up their virtual capabilities, some schools purchased video conferencing equipment that did not meet their needs.
Let’s learn from their mistakes and analyze what other schools can do to make sure they are ready for the future of hybrid education.
Software surged, but infrastructure lagged behind
COVID-19 brought about the era of cloud-based collaboration platforms like Zoom, Teams, and Google Classroom. Software companies forged ahead, pivoting with agility, to create substitutes for in-person interaction. But the hardware and connectivity infrastructure lagged behind, in terms of availability, quality and flexibility.
When the pandemic hit, schools rushed to purchase and install these sub-optimal systems. Without proper planning, schools ended up buying off the shelf USB/web cameras that lack the necessary capabilities like optical zoom, microphones and speakers without proper coverage for large-size classrooms, and even equipment that only functions with a specific collaboration platform.
Slow and steady wins the race
Now, looking at this from the point of view of the school administrator – I can fully understand why they made these decisions. In a global pandemic, with the education of our future generations on the line, it’s only too obvious why schools would hurry to purchase equipment that could enable the new virtual or hybrid normal they were facing. But sometimes, slow and steady wins the race.
For many schools that made these ad hoc purchases, their decisions will become a major pain point for years to come. For example, schools that purchased equipment operating only on a specific platform like Zoom, Teams, or any other software, could be locked into their pricing model and rate of technical advancement. And others might have to repurchase webcams, speakers and microphones to meet the AV standards students will expect in the virtual/hybrid post-pandemic future.
So let’s at least be sure not to make the same mistake again, and instead plan it out: What should schools look out for when revamping their AV equipment for hybrid education?
Our top 4 requirements for next-generation AV solutions in classrooms
First, it’s clear to everyone that the future of collaboration will depend on cloud-based platforms. This means that schools must expand and improve their cloud connectivity as soon as possible by increasing the classroom IP network quality and bandwidth. The network quality will be the number one factor impacting the learning experience of the students.
Second, as mentioned before, it is essential to have software-agnostic hardware and connectivity infrastructure. School administrators should be able to switch from Zoom to Teams and back again at their own convenience. This flexibility is simply paramount in maintaining low costs and keeping up to speed with the latest technological advancements.
Third, schools must insist on a true plug and play experience. Classrooms are changing, from in-class to hybrid and broadcasting teaching. Teachers are already overloaded by having to incorporate new gadgets into their workflow. As much as possible, we want teachers to focus on what they do best – teaching. If it takes them 5-10 minutes each class to set up the Zoom meeting and fix connectivity issues, we are wasting their time, that of the students, and disrupting the overall flow of the class.
Fourth, devices need to be reliable and safe. Professional installation is required. There should be no exposed wires for children to get caught up in and no free-standing equipment that can fall and break. This should preferably be wire-based– we simply cannot afford to compromise the quality or reliability of the lesson.
Recognizing the importance of streamlined, plug & play, software-agnostic connectivity solutions will bring the education system into the post-Corona world. At Valens we are proud to play our part in providing the long-range audio, video, and USB connectivity functionality in these solutions through our HDBaseT technology. So no more slow and steady – now is the time to transform our classrooms, without delay.
If you want to chat about HDBaseT solutions, contact the author at email@example.com