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Expert Roundtable: Trends in Education

Sep 1, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jack Kontney

Four industry experts weigh in on what's moving the market forward.

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James Madison University outdoor loudspeakers

These outdoor loudspeakers are the most visually obvious component of the mass-notification system that Communication Specialists installed at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. The system also integrates email blasts, text bursting, and outdialing to inform everyone on campus in the event of an emergency.

How would you characterize the differences between the K-12 and higher-education markets?

Scanlon: K-12 is growing in systems opportunities, but [it] is still primarily a value-added product sale environment. However, we do have markets where we do a high volume of classroom installations. Depending on the area, K-12 is a heavily bid-oriented product sales situation. Higher education is more oriented to systems-integration opportunities.

Boyce: The budget process requires that K-12 schools be savvy when investing in technology, because they have to live with their decisions for many years. This makes it more difficult for them to migrate to different technologies. Most K-12 schools purchase district-wide solutions, compared to universities that purchase AV systems based on academic departments or individual spaces.

Pusey: Method of usage is probably the biggest difference. In K-12, typically the district technologist will set the parameters — including the technology chosen, how it is installed, and how it is used for educational purposes. At the university level, these parameters are more directly controlled by the professor or department head.

In security/life safety, there's another significant difference: In universities, the students are adults and control access to their personal information, but in K-12, students don't control those decisions. Integrating email, cellphone numbers, or text access is critical to creating a successful mass-notification system — which is increasingly important in today's education environment.

Inside the classroom, what general changes have you seen in the AV integration requirements of education institutions over the past several years?

Dougherty: While traditional, localized AV systems are still common, we have seen a definite trend to more collaborative and on-demand technologies, such as streaming and archiving. These technologies require a very different approach for successful integration.

Boyce: The trend is toward visual learning. Increasingly, teachers are incorporating on-demand content, interactive whiteboards, videoconferencing, and streaming video into their lessons. To support these media in the classroom, it is important to have adequate displays and proper audio reinforcement.

Pusey: In general, the learning environment is becoming more interactive. We're seeing large-format display devices with integrated control systems, speech reinforcement, multimedia source selection, and visual delivery. Increasingly, these systems are integrated with electronic whiteboards and response-system software through laptop, desktop, and tablet computers.

What technologies are driving these changes?

Boyce: It's really driven by increases in available bandwidth. More and more, AV is becoming part of information technology, and at most educational institutions, the IT staff supports the AV systems. Video on demand, video over IP, and remote management of equipment help minimize the support requirements. Most IT directors recognize the importance of managing digital content and AV systems over the network and require that future projects incorporate these features.

Dougherty: The availability of inexpensive network bandwidth and improved QOS [quality of service] have been the most significant factors in the ability of institutions to cost-effectively and reliably deploy these new technologies.

Pusey: The typical student today is a computer gamer with an iPod in one hand and a texting phone in the other. Simply put: The learning environment needs interactive technologies — both to hold a student's attention and prepare them for adult life. We actually work with school districts that issue iPod Touch devices for each student and utilize web activities for interaction of the lesson plan.

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