It might come as a surprise to learn that some 50,000 students are currently studying for their degrees using distance learning solutions. The range of courses on offer includes business and management; criminology and law; engineering; finance and accounting; graphic design; health and social care; human resource management; marketing; psychology and, of course, computing and IT – but we believe that distance learning is on the cusp of substantial growth.
Perhaps it is less of a surprise to discover that Distance Learning is undergoing significant growth as universities start to exploit their brands among disparate audiences at home and abroad. Advantages to the students driving this growth include: the ability of students to set their own pace of study; students can choose when and where they study; it doesn’t matter when or where a student lives – they can gain a degree from anywhere in the world; and, the real clincher, a distance learning course often costs less than a full-time degree.
The simultaneous rise in the move to collaborative educational techniques increases the capability of educational institutions to offer distance learning by leveraging their digital platforms. In a recent report entitled: The Power of Integrated AV Experiences in Higher, AVIXA commented: “A new generation of students has arrived. They’re glued to their smartphones and grew up experiencing the world through multiple screens. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they want something more than the traditional education experiences, like the well-worn classroom lecture or the stately campus library.”
“Students use mobile devices to socialise, keep in touch with parents, handle finances and more. They communicate face-to-face — even when they’re miles away from each other. They expect brilliant high definition everywhere they look and a soundtrack that fits in with their lives. Using new technology throughout higher education represents a natural progression for a generation that favours digital platforms”.
“Today’s connected students are looking for meaningful, immersive experiences that impact their learning and their lives. They’re used to consuming audio and video information at the press of a button, and they want that in their physical world, from classrooms to public spaces. Students seek interactive learning with peers and faculty — simulation, games, audiovisual (AV) collaboration — that will help them solve problems and retain vital information. Research bears this out.”
Media and learning
There are some who argue that learning delivered digitally can produce better outcomes than traditional methods. Cognitive psychologist Richard Mayer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducted experiments that prove students who get information in multisensory environments do better than students who perceive information through one sense. Mayer found that recall through multisensory stimulation is more accurate, detailed and longer lasting – even 20 years into the future.
Problem-solving ability also improves, helping students generate up to 50 percent more creative solutions. The growth of online degree programs and distance learning has contributed to heightened expectations. What was once considered a niche channel for delivering education content has rapidly become mainstream. Now, students want more than one-way exposure to knowledge – they demand the kinds of engaging experiences they have outside the classroom. Higher education institutions that embrace experiential AV drive student engagement and retention.
When the University of Kansas School of Business began designing its new Capitol Federal Hall, everyone agreed the end result had to be a building that fostered a new and higher level of connection among faculty, students and visitors. “Former Dean Neeli Bendapudi had the vision for the project – to rethink the role of the university in students’ lives, and that of the business school in the community,” says Dan Nenonen, Partner at the architecture and design firm GastingerWalker& (GSA).
“Each student has a unique student-to-professor video feed to simulate the typical conversational perspective, with additional vantage points provided by multiple in-studio cameras.”
Using interactive and visual AV experiences, institutions can obviously expand the reach of their programs to educate students around the world. Harvard Business School (HBS) created its HBX Live virtual classroom to reproduce the intimacy and interaction of the physical classroom environment and put students at the center of the learning experience. Participants from around the globe can log in and join real-time, case-based sessions with HBS faculty and business leaders.
A high-resolution videowall mimics the amphitheatre-style seating of a university lecture hall, with up to 60 participants displayed simultaneously. High-definition views are also available from either side of the main videowall, facing the professor and teaching wall – a panoramic view facing the videowall, or within the teaching wall for another view of the professor. To further simulate real-time classroom interaction, speakers are concealed within the videowall. If the professor is engaged in conversation on one end of the videowall, a student on the opposite end interjects, he has a spatial, audio cue just as if in a classroom. In addition to live interaction, faculty can poll students and get real-time feedback.
“Each student has a unique student-to-professor video feed to simulate the typical conversational perspective, with additional vantage points provided by multiple in-studio cameras. From inside the studio, the professor’s experience is just as personal and interactive.” Explained JoAnn Arcenal, Director of Public Engagement, McCann System
The University of Wales Lampeter and Trinity University College Carmarthen, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) is the oldest Royal Chartered University in Wales, with campuses across South West Wales and in London. But a trailblazer for technology enabled learning. UWTSD has invested significantly in its infrastructure and embarked on an ambitious regeneration programme to transform the educational experience. Its partnership with Sony has expedited a move from traditional lecture theatres and auditoriums to cutting-edge learning spaces, delivering a collaborative and interactive environment that is driving new levels of engagement and attainment.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) has undergone substantial regeneration and development as part of its mission to expand its campus and enhance its student experience. This culminated in the £350 million construction of its new SA1 Swansea Waterfront Development (completed in September 2018), home to the Institute of Education, Faculty of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, the Construction Wales Innovation Centre and a new library. In the upgrade of its existing campuses learning spaces and the ground-up construction of the SA1 buildings, the University’s primary goal was to create an active learning environment with interactivity at its core.
The University had clear ambitions to fundamentally rethink teaching and learning programmes to engage and create an educational environment optimised for all students. “We wanted to create a collaborative ecosystem that would allow students to bring internet resources, specialist software or video footage into their discussions for analysis, debate, comparison and any other constructivist activity to develop knowledge and understanding. Moving away from ‘chalk and talk’ meant educators would become facilitators and guides within the learning environment”.
From initial proof of concept through to the final tailored offering being rolled across all campuses, Sony’s Vision Exchange solution has been developed hand-in-hand with UWTSD. The intuitive, scalable and flexible solution has been specifically tailored to the needs of Higher Education and the pedagogical requirements of UWTSD using:
Vision Exchange is being progressively deployed across all of UWTSD’s existing campuses and incorporated into the ground-up build of the teaching spaces at the SA1 Swansea Waterfront, enabling lecturers to feature the technology at the core of their education. The University has also invested in Sony’s TEOS Manage device and room management solution to efficiently manage, schedule and monitor the content that is displayed on all its networked BRAVIA professional displays and projectors.
Allowing staff to move more freely in the room, Vision Exchange has empowered better interaction between lecturers and students, improving participation and engagement with groups in the room as part of the educational process. Bringing ideas from different members of groups together – both inside and outside of the institution itself – also allows UWTSD to expand the learning environment beyond just the ‘classroom’ setting and actively develop its distance learning offering.
“Today’s connected students are looking for meaningful, immersive experiences that impact their learning and their lives. They’re used to consuming audio and video information at the press of a button, and they want that in their physical world, from classrooms to public spaces.”
University life is about more than academic life. For many. It is also a life-changing experience built on social, sporting and leisure activities. How does the distance learning student take advantage of these extra-curricular activities? Telestream has provided technology to a product at Auburn University. The US institution selected Lightspeed Live Stream to live stream special events, such as graduation ceremonies, sports events and other activities.
Lightspeed Live Stream takes live video feeds from production switchers, video routers, ISO cameras, or other sources and streams them simultaneously to the University’s Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels, as well as its own website.
From its production facilities in the Athletic Video Services Building, Auburn Athletics also uses a companion product from Telestream – Lightspeed Live Capture – to ingest and record live video of sports and special events onto their network attached storage system. An added attraction of the system is that both the stream and capture applications run on the same server hardware simultaneously.
While the University has contracted with ESPN to produce and deliver exclusive live video of its Auburn Tigers Southeastern Conference (SEC) sporting events that the major sports network streams, the use of the integrated Lightspeed Live Capture solution constitutes a completely separate and unrelated workflow. During live games and special events, Lightspeed Live Capture is used to create an archive of Auburn’s valuable sports footage that can later be repurposed into fan engagement videos, highlights reels, and other promotional materials. It’s also used to record live events video into the archive, while Lightspeed Live Stream simultaneously streams video to social media.
“Our goal was to find a robust, reliable solution that could provide streaming of multiple feeds to various social media platforms simultaneously and recording functionality that we needed, all from a single box. With Lightspeed Live from Telestream, we found the ideal streamlined solution,” said Weston Carter, Director of Video Services for Media Systems, Auburn University in Auburn, AL.
On the recording side, Auburn Athletics needs to record roughly 350 live events per year, amounting to thousands of hours of programming. For live football, baseball, softball, and basketball home games, this means recording live video produced in one of two control rooms in the Athletics Video Services Building. However, it could also mean recording live video feeds of ISO cameras at different playing fields, sports facilities and arenas across campus.
On the streaming side, the solution needs to run uninterrupted for long periods of time; for example, throughout football gamedays for pregame and in game events. It must also be able to live stream important events to a mix of social media sites simultaneously, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
“Lightspeed Live Stream and Live Capture have proven to be affordable, user-friendly systems that run reliably on a single piece of hardware. And, Lightspeed Live Stream simultaneously delivers up to four video channels to the social platforms we need to stream to, all from one box,” said Carter.
“Since students make up a big part of our production team, we wanted to make sure that the Lightspeed Live solution would in fact be very easy to learn and use, yet robust enough for the tasks we need to perform. We found that our students could indeed jump on it and start managing the live streams and recordings. With this greater efficiency, we’re saving considerable time training students, who can quickly be entrusted to handle these important tasks independently. We’re now filling our social media channels faster, while preserving video of our cherished moments and heritage for posterity,” adds Carter.
The continuing potential for an education is entering a virtuous circle, where a combination of technologies, including interactivity, collaboration and streaming, enables educational institutions to share resources and learning experiences. The choice of courses and expertise can be greater, and the number and diversity of tech-savvy potential students is almost limitless. The new technology platforms for distance learning also offer the potential to address the educational elephant in the room – the rising cost of education. By delivering education to its consumers digitally there is real potential to engage potential students deterred by tuition fees and the cost of accommodation etc incurred in relocating to the locality of the institution.