How to future-proof education with the convergence of AV and IT

AV-over-IT will be one of those buzzwords that swill soon be inescapable.
Liam Hayter
Liam Hayter

Over the last 20 years, we have seen many shifts in the digital space for content creation, distribution, and delivery. The need to connect remotely and deliver audio and video content with flexibility, regardless of location, has brought about a wave of change that has been reactive rather than proactive.

While AV-over-IP is not strictly new to education facilities, so far these implementations have focused on using ethernet connectivity in a very linear, point-to-point fashion that echoes the limited structure of traditional audio and video transmission, typically confined to each teaching space. The forced move to work from home and remote learning models moved us whole-scale from this fixed space environment to the use of distributed AV in a more flexible manner, leveraging tools, and approaches that would previously have been considered alien to teaching.

During this transition, the needs of the emerging hybrid space–between content creation, AV distribution, contribution, and most recently, videoconferencing–have evolved to require powerful decentralized hubs for the ever-changing education sector, both now and for the future. While AV-over-IP is the trend that has sparked the adoption of software-defined solutions, we are beginning to see a shift beyond AV-over-IP to complete AV-over-IT.

AV-over-IT, which you may have heard of, will be one of those buzzwords that is inescapable soon. AV-over-IT is about the complete delivery of audio and visual experiences through entirely software-defined workflows on computers through standard, network infrastructure. Traditional single-purpose, AV-specific hardware is essentially not needed, particularly if legacy equipment is not part of the workflow.

Effectively, the crux of the future of hybrid workflow is dependent on a strong network and IP protocol and the move to establish this is ushering in software-defined AV-over-IT. AV-over-IT encompasses computers, software, and networks—elements that need to work together to enable quality communication in remote and hybrid ecosystems.

In a hybrid future–convergence of AV and IT is key

Remote working, videoconferencing, distance teaching and training are the new normal. As remote AV users, we are in fact already utilizing an AV-over-IT approach when enabling the devices such as computers and mobile devices through software. With the likes of software applications such as Microsoft Teams now adopting an AV-over-IP protocol in every downloadable instance, videoconferencing is not just for a singular service or one room—it can now seamlessly extend into video production.

Pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras, originally developed for broadcast, also moved swiftly into the AV market. They require fewer operators and represent a more affordable way to capture in-room activity. PTZ cameras have also adopted software-defined AV-over-IP to deliver this into broadcast and AV and videoconferencing verticals simultaneously.

The ease of sending and receiving AV content between end points is a liberating experience that can take any educator’s AV presentation to the next level by providing powerful content creation hubs that can gather sources from baseband, IP, or videoconferencing platforms from anywhere on the network.

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The key benefit to an AV-over-IT workflow is robust software. A software-defined approach from the ground up eliminates the need to invest in expensive, specific devices—but instead makes it possible to integrate flexible software with existing devices that educators and students already have. Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS can all utilize these tools to enable computers, mobile devices, phones, and tablets to serve as powerful teaching and learning tools.

Teacher or student devices can then speak the same protocol as production tools. Displays, e-learning systems and video conferencing can blend and empower users to create engaging learning experiences for remote students. This ability to add new software onto existing devices helps save on costs but also adds impressive new opportunities. It also enables a more sustainable environment that can update flexibly in the future.

Education doesn’t exist without collaboration

The next leap in the integration of AV and IT goes beyond interconnected rooms, buildings, spaces, and services. Specifically, it’s all about breaking beyond the campus, beyond streaming and conferencing, and bringing all these together on a global scale. We refer to this as distributed AV, or distributed production.

Distributed models are about much more than moving things to the cloud. Instead, they are about placing endpoints such as PTZ cameras and microphones where they’re required geographically, while also providing two-way control and feedback for a richer remote experience from anywhere. Crucially, this is achieved without having to replicate core processing at every location, which enables collaborative, interactive content creation and distribution in a more cost-effective and energy-efficient way.

Once enabled, AV-over-IP feeds and AV-over-IT devices can be shared peer-to-peer as though they were in front of you, on campus, or even at home, pushing what was previously thought possible in hybrid remote learning and delivery. This workflow achieves cooperative learning between campuses and institutions. It connects classrooms, auditoriums, remote and local learners, guest lecturers and more.

In turn, educators and IT/networking teams can rapidly pivot to remote workflows, while also amplifying the experience of distance learning to create next-level learning content and environments for the future of the education sector. The result is more impactful engagement without compromising on quality. It’s often at a more affordable cost point.

As next generation as these technological leaps seem, and regardless of the power of the technology itself, it’s the collaboration that makes it all possible. Success extends right back to the start of an institution’s journey into AV-over-IT.

Key stakeholders, educators, AV, IT, and networking teams brought together from day zero on a project—with the right system integrators and vendors—can make these transitions smooth and flexible. They can also fun and collaborative , and ensure you have a solid yet infinitely flexible foundation to build upon as needs evolve.

Liam Hayter is the senior solutions architect at NewTek, a provider of video tools and visual imaging software.

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