AVIXA POV: Education At An Intersection

AVIXA POV explores education technologies

After the pandemic, which AV technologies will live on in the education sector? AVIXA weighs in.

In the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the intersection of “necessary,” “group” and “in person” is a brutal place to be. Thankfully for our society, few activities check all three boxes. In AV, there’s actually just one vertical market that does—namely, education.

The confluence of those three characteristics has made education one of the most complex and innovative spaces since the pandemic began. When it comes to reducing the grouped nature of education (i.e., spreading out students) and elevating the remote-learning experience, AV has been a primary tool. Many AV professionals have led the way in establishing superior video connectivity for teachers, virtual interactivity for students and expanded hybrid capabilities for classrooms.

Now, as vaccines usher the world past COVID-19 restrictions, we turn our attention to the future of the space. We remain confident in in-person education’s enduring value, but, looking at the biggest successes of the last year, we see potential for some of those successes to find space in the post-pandemic classroom.

So, where do we stand now? In the US, a federal survey showed that about half of schools serving fourth or eighth graders were open for full-time, in-person education. (The data was collected primarily in late January and released in late March.) Despite the large percentage of schools with the full-time, in-person option, the majority of students were still home at least part time (to be specific, 60 percent of fourth graders and 68 percent of eighth graders). With vaccines proliferating and case counts declining, the percentage of in-person schools and students, respectively, have undoubtedly increased since that data was collected. Even so, AVIXA’s latest data shows the pandemic’s continued effects.

Noting how significantly the pandemic has affected business tendencies throughout the economy, AVIXA decided that this year is the right time to refresh our Market Opportunities Analysis Report (MOAR) series, which surveys end users to help us understand their AV-spending plans. The new survey offers numerous insights into how educators are addressing current conditions, as well as their intentions for the near future.

One major finding from this AVIXA series is that education end users are most likely to report big increases in their spending on the conferencing-and-collaboration solution area. That might seem obvious at first, but remember this: That means the conferencing-and-collaboration solution area is ahead of the learning solution area. In the education vertical! Clearly, remote connectivity has plenty of life left in education.

A look at the benefits that education end users ascribe to AV illuminates why conferencing and collaboration are the locus of so much planned additional spending. The reported top benefit from AV centers on customer satisfaction…helping learners appreciate their experience. Not far behind, however, are two internal benefits: increased operating efficiency and increased employee satisfaction. These behind-the-scenes aspects are where we expect those extra conferencing-and-collaboration investments to focus.

Why do we tie conferencing and collaboration to staff interaction more than to actual teaching? Well, prior research gives us reason to be skeptical about the longterm persistence of remote learning. In AVIXA’s 2020 second-quarter Macroeconomic Trend Analysis (META) report, we found clear evidence that the in-person learning
experience is highly unlikely to relinquish its primacy over virtual learning.

Some of the strongest evidence for in-person learning’s persistence can be found in the example of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) created by organizations like Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Coursera. The idea behind MOOCs is that the internet can connect the masses to the best work of the best professors. MOOCs leveraged a competitive process to develop the most compelling coursework possible. For a few years there, the growth was exponential; then it tailed off. Despite the caliber of the teaching—as an alum of one course, I can personally attest to that quality—the programs didn’t take off. They simply lack something that in-person education has.

That said, the world of education has learned a great deal in the last year. Although students will be back in classes soon enough—indeed, some already are—some of the remote era’s successes will certainly carry over. The question is which changes will linger. Partially remote classes for graduate students who are also working? A guaranteed remote option for students who miss class due to sickness? AV in classes to boost experiential learning?

The answers to those questions will lie in the partnerships between education end users and their AV partners. Providers that can offer user-friendly, affordable ways to bring the best of remote learning and hybrid learning to the in-person environment stand to gain a great deal in the coming months. Thanks to its nature as a necessary service that is traditionally both an inperson endeavor and a group activity, education has had as tough of a time with the pandemic as any vertical market has. The last year has seen a great deal of innovation and transformation, with big help from AV. Now, education is transitioning back to its in-person status quo. But that status quo won’t exactly match “the before times.”

The race is on for AV providers to synthesize the last year’s biggest successes with the in-person learning experience. Those who do so will create post-pandemic learning environments that are better than anything that came before.

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