It's common to discuss web conferencing and other audio/visual collaboration systems as tools belonging to the corporate world, but they have real applications in a number of other markets, too. One such industry is the field of higher education. In fact, a recent report notes that redesigning learning spaces to include elements like increased wireless bandwidth and web conferencing capabilities is a hot Ed Tech trend, quickly on its w
ay to becoming mainstream practice.
Using Technology to Reinvigorate Learning Spaces
Recently, the New Media Consortium (NMC), along with the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, released a report citing the top six trends and top six challenges expected in higher education in the next five years. The authors of the NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition sought to identify the technological developments anticipated to "drive educational change." Simply put, the report reveals how technology is expected to foster growth in higher education. And one of those identified growth mechanisms is in redesigning learning spaces.
As a mid-impact trend, redesigned learning spaces will take off within the next three to five years, according to the report. While more inviting and informal space designs are on the agenda, new technologies—specifically, collaborative technologies and the infrastructure and bandwidth it takes to support them—will be key drivers of this educational change. Here's how:
- Bandwidth will get bigger. Today’s students belong to the bring- your-own-device culture. The average classroom is filled with smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other internet-capable and application-heavy devices. On top of that, the number of “smart rooms”—classrooms dedicated to and stocked with the latest technologies, including large screens for digital projects and multimedia presentations—is expected to rise. To support this growth, NMC's report suggests colleges and universities will need to upgrade their wireless bandwidth capacities to meet the demands of more connected students and better connected spaces.
- Educational environments will be set up for collaboration. Education is all about the sharing of information and ideas, and nothing facilitates this principle more than a student-centric, collaboration-focused approach to learning space design. Web conferencing clearly enables this sort of collaboration—more on that next—but there are other changes coming, with similar goals. For example, NMC's report indicates these future collaborative hubs could even include technology and equipment to allow students to create and model objects as they work together in real time.
- Web conferencing will have its own space. The NMC report indicates that more educational institutions will employ the use of web conferencing in the near future to better enable distance learners and offer more flexibility for all students. For a video conference to be as effective as possible, the sound must be clear and the visuals crisp, so expect these dedicated web conferencing rooms to feature large digital screens, acoustic panels, and ceiling microphones. Blended physical and virtual learning spaces will benefit students on and off campus because, while they're connecting with one another, they will also be exposed to technologies used in many workplaces.
Technology is poised to help redesign learning spaces, and students and their future employers will benefit. Tomorrow's classrooms, in fact, may start resembling office spaces—libraries will be replaced with reading nooks and e-book access, specific web conferencing rooms will revolutionize distance learning and real-time student-to-faculty and student-to-student collaboration, and bandwidth will be added to support it all.
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