Advanced audiovisual technology improves students’ educational experience in and outside the classroom, while professors simultaneously leverage this technology to enhance their lesson plans. Because of the advances in audiovisual technology, flex rooms are undoubtedly the classrooms of choice for higher education. These innovative classrooms of the digital age provide unparalleled flexibility for students, whether they’re learning remotely or in person.
Flex rooms empower students with the freedom to receive a high-quality, engaging educational experience from any location. At the same time, professors can leverage these dynamic classrooms to create exciting content for every student.
What Are Flex Rooms in Higher Education?
As online learning options for higher education evolve, flex rooms are becoming the new normal. In the past, online and in-person students were in separate classrooms. Remote classes took place online through virtual classrooms powered by video conferencing technology. Meanwhile, in-person students would attend lectures on campus. Some educational institutions also offer “hybrid classes,” during which students attend class in person a few days a week and take the rest of their courses online.
However, advancements in audiovisual technology and the need for enhanced learning options allow educators to simultaneously accommodate remote and in-person students. As a result, “flex rooms” are becoming more popular in educational institutions.
Research states that, although 49% of learners prefer hybrid classrooms, only 35% of faculty members favor a hybrid environment. Flex rooms bridge this gap by allowing students and educators to experience the best of both worlds. Some students are physically in the classroom in a flex room, while others actively participate from a remote location.
The Importance of Flex Rooms in Higher Education
As remote and hybrid learning models become the norm, educational institutions must adapt to meet the changing needs of students and professors. Because of these unique needs, flex rooms present the ideal solution for educational institutions to enhance in-person and remote learning.
Industry leaders in higher education realize that advanced audiovisual technologies and tech-friendly learning environments are crucial to providing remote learners with a well-rounded educational experience. While remote learning options allow students to pursue education from home, educational institutions must provide students and teachers with high-quality audiovisual equipment.
Although remote and hybrid learning options increase the accessibility of higher education, remote learners often feel isolated from students in the classroom. However, flex rooms allow remote students to feel included from any location. With flex rooms, remote students can engage with in-person students in real-time. As a result, remote students feel more involved with educational content, which enhances their comprehension and overall educational experience.
Audiovisual Technology for the Best Flex Rooms
While flex rooms may have variances in their design to accommodate the room’s dimensions and the number of students in the classroom, all flex rooms exist to ensure that remote and in-person students have an engaging educational experience. When audiovisual integrators install equipment for a flex room, they must carefully place equipment to ensure that remote and in-person students can engage with each other.
Pan-Tilt-Zoom Cameras with Auto-Tracking Features
Before the development of pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras with auto-tracking technology, professors were required to stand in one place during recorded lectures. Not only did this limit the professor’s ability to stay mobile and connect with students, but it also decreased the likelihood that students would remain engaged with learning materials. In contrast, PTZ auto-tracking cameras allow professors to move throughout the classroom while maintaining a clear view to ensure that remote learners can see them at all times.
When audiovisual integration specialists design a flex room, they strategically place PTZ auto-tracking cameras so remote students can view the professor and the interactive whiteboard. Since PTZ auto-tracking cameras are complete with Human Detection Tracking, the camera can identify the speaker’s physical form, even if they have a mask. In addition, many PTZ auto-tracking cameras are equipped with remote control features, which allow the user to alter the tracking target at the touch of a button.
High-quality audio technology is crucial for effective flex rooms in higher education. Professors in a hybrid learning environment need microphones with lecture capture technology to ensure that remote learners can adequately hear them speaking. There are several different types of microphones that educational institutions may use in a flex room, which include:
- Wearable microphones. Many instructors prefer wearable microphones because they ensure crystal-clear audio as they move throughout the room. Wearable microphones are the ideal option for educators hosting live and pre-recorded lectures.
- Speakerphone microphones. Audiovisual integrators may also suggest speakerphone microphones that enable teachers to engage with remote and in-person students. With a portable speakerphone, it’s much easier for professors to collaborate with remote students. Most speakerphones are complete with noise-canceling technology to ensure students can hear the instructor over background noise.
- Wireless portable microphones. Instead of contributing to classroom discussions using inefficient video conferencing technology, students in the classroom can use a wireless portable microphone to contribute to discussions.
Audiovisual integration specialists may suggest different microphones depending on each school’s budget and unique needs. The microphones in flex rooms must be able to record live audio content while professors move throughout the classroom.
No flex room is complete without the addition of interactive digital whiteboards. Research shows that interactive whiteboards enhance student engagement. In an era of remote and hybrid learning, interactive whiteboards allow students to engage with learning materials, even when they are not physically present in the classroom. Educators can easily share their screens with remote students using interactive whiteboards and record lessons, so students have the option to access learning materials at their convenience. Meanwhile, remote students can collaborate from their own devices.
There are many interactive whiteboards to choose from, but audiovisual integrators will likely install those with collaborative capabilities so all students remain engaged. Since flex rooms will accommodate remote learners, the digital whiteboards must integrate with an interactive teaching software suite. Furthermore, educators must ensure that their interactive whiteboards are compatible with multiple devices and applications. This compatibility ensures that no student is left behind and professors have all the tools necessary to deliver engaging lessons for every student.