As restrictions increase and schools return to remote learning, it’s important to outfit classrooms with the proper audiovisual equipment in order to truly maximize online education. For the best results, it’s not enough to simply supply students with online notes and hope they understand the material. This goes for both K–12 schools as well as colleges and universities. In both of these settings, it is crucial to keep students engaged and interested in course material. Without this constant engagement, it’ll be easier for students to get lost, especially since they will have less one-on-one time with their teachers. To prevent this, classrooms and individual teachers must be equipped with a specific set of equipment. This guide will list out the audiovisual equipment necessary for encouraging student engagement in remote education settings.
Even though they aren’t classified as a piece of equipment, videoconferencing platforms are arguably the most important aspect of remote education. Without a videoconferencing software of some kind, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Webex, etc., remote classes would not exist. For this reason, videoconferencing platforms are indispensable in this setting. For the best results, schools should invest in a plan that corresponds to class sizes.
Document cameras are the upgraded version of overhead projectors. And the difference is enormous! Basically, overhead projectors are Peter Parker’s hand-made Spiderman suit, and document cameras are Tony Stark’s upgrade. Not only can teachers project any document or object during in-person classes, but they can also display this content over videoconferencing, making document cameras perfect for remote learning.
The ability to share content live with remote students promotes collaboration among peers, and thus, increases online class engagement. For example, document cameras allow teachers to bring in additional textbooks and have their students take turns reading. Teachers can also give their students worksheets to be completed collectively as a class, giving their students a regular classroom atmosphere despite their physical separation. With these cameras, teachers have the opportunity to bring in blank sheets of paper to take class notes based on students’ contributions to the discussion. Teachers can even use these cameras for virtual science experiments, allowing their students to complete virtual labs and gain experience in analyzing data.
As seen, document cameras offer limitless possibilities for remote learning. Most of the suggestions presented above would be a good fit for K–12 schools, but document cameras are also useful for post-secondary environments. They are fantastic for bringing in extra articles or studies to discuss as a class or even for showing the step-by-step process for decoding complex formulas.
Lecture Capture Solutions
Like the name suggests, lecture capture solutions enable teachers to record or “capture” their lectures. The best solutions allow teachers to livestream their lectures directly to their students while recording the session for any unavailable students. Some solutions even offer the ability to do picture in picture, so teachers can record themselves alongside their notes and presentations. These solutions can be either hardware-based or software-based, each of which comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses, so it’s important to do some research and choose the solution that fits correctly into your environment.
Lecture capture solutions are guaranteed to amplify online student engagement at the university level. Professors who teach solely via live videoconferencing could have larger groups of students who aren’t understanding the material. This is because it’s a lot harder to take detailed, accurate notes live, especially with the disadvantage of being online. Giving students the opportunity to pause recorded lectures will enable them to take better notes, and ultimately, comprehend the material. Recorded lectures also allow busy students to catch up on any missed lectures on their own time. Furthermore, posting these lectures will encourage students to rewatch important segments before any assignments or tests, increasing the chance that these students understand any pertinent information. Therefore, lecture capture is a vital component to ensuring the success of remote education as long as it’s used correctly. When posting lectures online, remember to keep things accessible to promote maximum student engagement. All students will greatly appreciate captions on lecture videos as these will ensure they are copying down the right information.
These solutions have a chance to increase student engagement in the long run as well, not just while education is online. Teachers could livestream and record their in-person lectures to make sure students don’t miss any information. With lecture capture, students could take classes while living in different cities or even internationally. Additionally, these solutions give students the flexibility to have day-time jobs while going to school. Lecture capture solutions could revolutionize the university experience.
Imagine not being able to see your instructor. Or even worse, imagine seeing them completely pixelated. This can be extremely distracting, especially for younger students. Whether you teach in K–12 environments or in university, webcams—preferably ones with excellent picture quality—are necessary for remote learning. For the best results, opt for an external HD camera. Laptop cameras are ok, but the goal for remote education should be to create an in-person atmosphere even while physically apart, and laptop cameras do not possess the mechanisms for this level of reality. Having a realistic picture quality will allow students to truly connect with their teachers as they would in person. It’s a lot harder for students to remain attentive when they cannot see their teachers properly. Producing an in-person feel for every class will keep students from feeling detached from the lesson, which will in turn foster interest and participation among students.
Microphone Headset (or External Microphone/Speakers)
Not hearing teachers properly would be even worse than not seeing them. In classes, most of the educational information is conveyed through the teacher’s lecture. Although they may have PowerPoint slides or additional notes, these notes generally contain the basic information, which the teacher then elaborates on in their speech. Therefore, if students are unable to hear their teachers properly, they will be left with inaccurate information. Teachers should not rely on their internal laptop microphones. These microphones are not precise when it comes to audio pickup, meaning students may be bombarded with distracting and overpowering background noises. Instead, teachers should be equipped with external microphones. The best possible solution for remote education would be a wireless microphone headset, which allows teachers to move around while still delivering a crisp audio quality.
On the other hand, if teachers cannot hear their students correctly, they will not be able to assess where their students are struggling and how to help them. Once again, laptop speakers are inadequate for producing high-quality audio. And if a teacher needs to move around as part of their lesson, these speakers might not offer the necessary reach. For the best results, choose either a wireless headset or external speakers of some kind.
Soundbars and Displays
Although some provinces have been switching between online and in-person learning for K–12 schools, there isn’t a set timeline for how long remote education will last, especially for universities with larger class sizes and new, vaccine-resistant variants popping up. Thus, schools should set up certain classrooms with a soundbar and a display. Not only will this allow teachers to come in and start lectures right away without any additional equipment, but it will also facilitate collaboration among teachers. With this set-up, two or three teachers (or more depending on room size) will be able to combine their lectures and expand their students’ knowledge, while remaining safely distanced.
Even when classes aren’t in person, interactive whiteboards can be a very useful tool. They are a great way to present notes on both live and recorded lectures. And the top interactive whiteboards have an option to share notes with students over the internet in applications such as Google Drive or DropBox. Once notes are saved, students can then share their own insights directly on the documents, and their changes will be shared with everyone! Regardless of whether learning is online or in person, interactive whiteboards are always a fantastic way to inspire engagement and collaboration among students.
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