What does the future of learning & teaching environment look like in HE, and what potential benefits could this bring?

Reflex asked three leading experts for their thoughts on the direction of teaching and learning in Higher Education in 2021 and beyond.

The education sector faced a big challenge in 2020 when it had to find a way to continue delivering high quality remote education to students during the spread of Covid-19.

This meant very quickly overcoming logistical challenges and ensuring that lecturers had the resources and training necessary to continue teaching remotely whilst trying to ensure a good quality experience.

This raises questions not only on the extent to which universities are prepared for a blended learning approach moving forwards, but also the expectations of both lecturers and students.

Caroline Carter
Technology Delivery Manager (AV),
Imperial College London

How long have you been at Imperial College and what excites you most about what you do?
I have been at Imperial College for 18 years; I enjoy talking to lots of different people and the different upgrades and installs, no day is the same and of course talking to
all the Reflex employees.

What is blended learning and what role will this play in the university choices of future students?
Blended learning or, as we call it, multimodal is where you have students present in a lecture theatre and students joining remotely, the academic could be joining remotely as well or in the room. The business school have been teaching in this way for a few years now and the rest of college is now teaching like this. Multimodal will be offered in the future for more courses not just at the business school. It is also great for people with disabilities.

“Multimodal will be offered in the future for more courses…It is also great for people with disabilities.”

There are often perceived complexities around deployment of AV technology with some users more reluctant than others to embrace these technologies. What tips do you have for making staff feel more comfortable with utilising these technologies?

Listen to staff and find out what their specification is, not necessarily what product they want to use but what they want to achieve from the technology / software. Demo the technology / software in a way that they can understand it; in an environment similar to where they would use it.

“Listen to staff and find out… what they want to achieve from the technology / software.”

What was the one stand-out project that you delivered at the University in 2020 and why was this so?

I really enjoyed the Glenister Lecture Theatre upgrade, it was transformed from a very old looking room that didn’t lend itself acoustically to a first-class teaching room with modern technology, collaboration booths for the students and also an area for teaching with patients. It was a fun project with a great team.

Dan Lee
Managing Director,
Hewshott International

From your experience of working with the HE sector, what challenges do you see that universities face with implementing new technologies, and do you have tips for overcoming these challenges?

Over the last ten months, universities (and all organisations for that matter) have seen a huge acceleration of their unified comms and remote working/teaching strategies, with deployments that were originally planned to happen over the course of months or years happening in weeks. All of this while staff have had to adapt their own way of working and become teachers to their own children!

“…staff have had to adapt their own way of working and become teachers to their own children!”

That said, despite the challenges, this period has required universities and their partners to get creative and to innovate. To develop tactical short-term solutions to support ongoing teaching and learning, but also to look to the future and to consider the very real possibility that a hybrid approach to rooms brings many benefits.

“…a hybrid approach to rooms brings many benefits.”

How has Hewshott been able to help universities in their adoption and implementation of AV and in particular blended learning solutions?

Whilst the HE sector has been typically focused around in-person interaction historically, the corporate sector has been pushing in the direction of more agile working for some time. Hewshott’s experience across several sectors has served our university clients well over the last year, as we’ve been able to assist them in quickly getting up to speed on hybrid events and remote working tools based on our own real-world experience.

Additionally, a key benefit of using Hewshott generally is the ability to scale internal teams up and down as required on a project-by-project basis. This capability enabled our university clients to ‘hit the panic button’ when the move to online was required and to immediately bolster their own teams with capable, knowledgeable and experienced design and project management resources.

When we get out of this current climate, what event are you looking forward to most and why?

Rather than a specific event, I am looking forward to the networking and social elements that surround each industry event. I have missed the opportunity to spend time with friends and colleagues and just chat. I have realised just how much I took from those conversations in the past; it’s one of those things that you don’t realise is important until it’s gone.

“…I have missed the opportunity to spend time with friends and colleagues and just chat.”

I do also wonder if the big industry events will ever exist again as we used to know them. Only time will tell I guess…hopefully the LTSMG event will come back bigger and better (if that’s even possible!) as that’s a personal favourite for me.

Jane Ross
EMEA Education Lead,
Zoom Communications

Could you explain what the Zoom video platform is, and the advantages it brings to the HE learning and teaching environment?

Zoom brings teams together to get more done in a frictionless and secure video environment. Our easy, reliable, and innovative video-first unified communications
platform provides video meetings, voice, webinars, and chat across desktops, phones, mobile devices, and conference room systems. Zoom helps education
institutions create elevated experiences with leading 3rd party app integrations and developer tools to create customized workflows.

What does Zoom offer universities to make them stand out from other communications providers?

Zoom is easy to use; one consistent experience for all users; device agnostic supporting iOS, Windows, Android, Blackberry, Linux, etc.; consistent quality even with bandwidth or connection limitations.

What are the most used features of the Zoom platform used within the sector and why do you think this is the case?

Zoom’s integrations such as LTI Pro for LMS platforms, SSO and Kaltura are very popular with our Education community. Other popular platform features are:

Enhanced Breakout Rooms, which allow the professor to separate the class into as many as 100 individual smaller sessions while offering the ability for students to selfselect rooms and easily move between rooms.

Polling which offers the opportunity to keep the students engaged while understanding how they are grasping the material.

Zoom Webinar for the option to deliver a one-way, more focused engagement where the students can only see the speaker/s and interact via Q&A and/or chat.

Multi-pinning, where users can pin up to nine videos on screen in their custom personal view, improving accessibility for students who are deaf or hard of hearing by allowing them to pin both their teacher and sign language interpreter.

Name one person that really inspires you and why?

My children inspire me. Their ability to shift between in-person and virtual learning – unpredictably – while remaining positive, flexible and productive reminds me that all of this is temporary. Nothing is permanent except change and the better we adapt and manage that change, the more successful the outcome.

“Their ability to shift between in-person and virtual learning…while remaining positive…reminds me that all of this is temporary.”

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