Education, as an industry, has needed a shake-up for a long time now. None of us could have expected that it would take a global pandemic to force this, but yet – here we are. The impact of COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns was felt acutely by educational institutions of all types. All of a sudden, students could not attend classes in person and the entire dynamic of the learning environment had to shift.
In an attempt to continue normal operations, schools and universities sought to move their teaching online so that students could engage with the material from home and continue progressing as best they could. It was a difficult period for all.
However, one silver lining that has come out of this is a new appreciation for what can be achieved when you are leveraging the right technology. In many cases, the new hybrid working model broke the boundaries that had been implicitly agreed upon and showed us that there are new ways to think about education.
We saw this play out recently when we were working with PVAMU to deliver a world-class hybrid system that ended up transforming the learning experience entirely.
Transitioning to a Hybrid Environment in the Midst of a Pandemic
We were approached by the team at PVAMU because they were facing somewhat of an impasse. The pandemic had put an end to in-person instruction and they had some 200 different traditional learning environments that needed to be re-imagined. Typically large-scale changes like this would happen over years, but we certainly didn’t have that luxury in this case. They needed results, and fast.
In a very short space of time before the semester was to start, we had to put our plans into action. In addition, the environment was extremely competitive because everyone found themselves in the same boat – trying to transition to a future that they didn’t think would come so soon. As an organization, we needed to act quickly and decisively to design, procure, test, and implement all of the remote teaching setups and systems – so that teaching could continue uninterrupted.
After some quick deliberation and a nuanced understanding of what the needs were across the 200 classroom setups, we recommended a powerful, versatile, and affordable video conferencing system that could deliver the sort of hybrid learning that the university was looking for. The client gave us the go-ahead pretty quickly and we set out to implement it on a very tight schedule.
The first thing that proved incredibly challenging was simply getting our hands on the equipment. As everyone was scrambling to install some remote learning capabilities, major manufacturers were facing severe supply constraints. Luckily, our deep relationships with key suppliers that we have nurtured for years really paid off here. We were able to reserve the requisite equipment and started working to transform the PVAMU learning experience.
With such a tight deadline, we knew we had to call in some extra hands. Because our AV team is scalable, we managed to provide a team of twelve dedicated installers, an onsite project manager, and qualified support personnel to get the job done. These resources are just not something the university would ever be able to procure, especially at such short notice. But for us, that’s how we’re built. We remain flexible and agile so that we can scale up and down depending on what our client needs. It’s a key differentiator for us and this example shows just how valuable it can be when you’re in a difficult situation.
Together the team managed to complete and test 200 classrooms in less than 60 days. This was a mammoth feat and it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the collaboration between the on-campus warehouse and purchasing team to complete what needed to be done. But the efforts showed just what was possible with a clear vision and the relevant expertise to get the job done. Overall, the implementation was smooth, efficient, and exceeded even our expectations – leading to great results for the wider university base.
Where To From Here?
Of course, stories like this are a natural by-product of a once-in-a-generation pandemic and it’s tempting to think that when things get back to normal, we’ll go back to the way that things were. But that’s not entirely true. The entire educational landscape has changed forever and it's unlikely to ever return to the way things used to be.
The industry as a whole was slowly shifting towards hybrid learning even before the virus took hold, and the pandemic was simply an accelerating factor. Regardless of your context, hybrid learning is becoming the norm around the world because it makes education more accessible, more technologically-enabled, and allows for methodologies that just weren’t possible before.
While traditional education brings with it many important features, we’ve now seen that a well-designed hybrid system can offer new angles, perspectives, and means of instruction that are going to prove invaluable going forward. This is not a trend that you can escape and in order to compete, institutions will need to embrace this future.
The foundations are set with your technology. Your ability to record, transmit, and engage with students both in-person and online will dictate the quality of the learning environment as a whole. It starts with great video conferencing equipment but it goes much further than that. It requires a paradigm shift about what education is. We have to start re-imagining the classroom of the future as we craft a new environment that is tied to the world that we’re creating.
The hybrid learning environment is here to stay and if you’re not investing in the technology that you need to implement it, you’re going to find yourself on the wrong side of history.
If your institution would like to explore transforming your classroom experience with world-class AV services and additional support, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch today and let’s see how we can help!
ABOUT CAG: CAG is a highly experienced IT consulting firm. With 100+ years of combined technology experience and business acumen, CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments. By focusing on simple, meaningful, and practical solutions combined with straight-for ward analysis and recommendations, CAG’s team has experience in many regulatory and economic environments with companies and organizations of all sizes. CAG not only offers a deep understanding of IT, but its solutions are software and hardware agnostic. Whether a client is high growth or economically challenged, CAG can adapt to the complexities and nuances of that business. Based in Dallas, Texas; Columbia Advisory Group works extensively with clients throughout the United States. For more information, visit columbiaadvisory.com