Making today’s classrooms work for current and future students

Technology must support flexible classroom arrangements

Colleges and universities have been slowly but persistently transforming their traditional classroom spaces into rooms that facilitate active learning. How should classroom technology adapt to these changing spaces?
The purpose of technology must be to facilitate better learning and higher student engagement. Many institutions are moving toward the flipped classroom model because it puts students in the driver’s seat. Students need to be able to fully participate in the classroom experience through their devices in this environment, and faculty need to be able to moderate this use of technology. The use of BYOD has grown with the increased use of these huddle-style classrooms, where students gather in small groups with multiple, smaller screens. Flexibility is what students expect from their learning spaces, and technology needs to support that.

How are student expectations shaping this new use of classroom technology?
It is the job of technology providers to meet student expectations. When BYOD first started and students wanted to use their own devices in the classroom, we needed to make our products compatible with any device. But now there’s an expectation that students want to use their devices in ways that do not disrupt how they use their technology outside the classroom. It is important to keep in touch with students and find out if they like to use apps, or prefer their web browser, for example. Knowing this is key to shaping a product in a way that will meet students’ expectations.

What are the must-have features of instructional technology installations in today’s classroom?
Creating an eduroam-style environment is essential. There are typically subnets across a network, but students do not have to disconnect and reconnect as they walk around campus. So classroom technology must be able to work on that seamless network.
It is a given that the learning management and room control systems institutions use must integrate with any classroom technology. Multiple accessories, from document cameras to microscopes to computers, ought to simultaneously and wireless connect to classroom displays.
In small group situations, faculty need to have the ability to take content one group is producing and share it with the rest of the class. Interactive features such as polling, Q&A and feedback need to be standard.

What advice can you offer IT leaders for making technology investments that will work for today’s and tomorrow’s classrooms?
Start with the network. Many technology companies emphasize the innovative features of their products. But it is much more important that IT leaders ask how a product will work on the institution’s network and how they can control it on the network. The next step is to break down the different classroom types and make sure a product is compatible with the different lecture halls and active classrooms on a specific campus. Starting with price as the first qualification is often a mistake that leads to product replacement sooner than desired because due diligence was not done in making sure the product is a long-term fit for the network and classrooms.

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