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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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Which new technologies or products have you found especially applicable to leveraging your work in the education market?

Dougherty: We prefer proven, reliable technologies over the bleeding edge. Interactive whiteboards and related peripherals are very strong for the K-12 area. In many cases, the simplest solution is the most efficient and effective. We have had tremendous success with AV control panels in a custom lectern, which houses the AV equipment and instructor's computer.

Pusey: What we really provide is transport for voice, video, and data. The convergence of AV technologies onto the data network has made us adaptive to the IP world. VoIP telephony, streaming video, and IP video/security solutions are the most significant product categories.

Boyce: District-wide content management and video distribution over IP has been a key solution that we offer to the education market. Video distribution often leads to incorporating presentation systems, TV production studios, and digital archiving systems.

Let's look at some specific technologies. Have recent advances changed the nature of distance learning?

Boyce: With the increase in available bandwidth, distance learning is now a viable option for homebound students and those with careers. We can now implement Flash-based solutions that don't require any software to be loaded on the student's computer, which eliminates software-support issues. All the student needs is a standard web-based camera with a microphone. Even without a camera, chat features allow communication with the instructor, who has the ability to share documents and screenshots.

Dougherty: The term “distance learning” can mean different things to different people. That being said, the trend in today's typical distance-learning system is moving away from highly sophisticated two-way communication and toward a one-to-many streaming environment.

Pusey: Distance learning has changed. Several companies now offer low-cost videoconferencing at 30fps across 100MB connections. And because most schools are running T1 and T3 lines into every classroom or access point, we're seeing it used increasingly at the university level. In the K-12 environment, it's now much easier for a rural high school that needs to offer a course for just three students to deliver that content by connecting to another school.

How has digital signage affected the education market?

Boyce: Digital signage is an effective and efficient way to share information with students and staff, especially as part of a mass-notification system. The ability to quickly inform people of special events, schedules, procedures, and life-safety instructions is imperative. Combined with other communication techniques, digital signage streamlines the process of distributing important information.

Pusey: Certainly this technology has invaded virtually everywhere, including schools. With the cost of LCD plummeting, digital signage in common spaces, sporting areas, and high-traffic areas has now become much more popular. The software for these products has also become much more robust while becoming much easier to use.

Dougherty: We have seen only modest deployments of digital signage in the educational marketplace, but there's clearly a lot of potential there.





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