Hybrid AV Solutions For Socially-Distanced Seminars

Date: 14/04/21

Discover how we helped the University of Plymouth migrate to hybrid AV solutions for effective socially-distanced seminar teaching. 

We remained fully operational from the outbreak of the pandemic and as lockdown 1.0 fell we saw a huge surge in supply only sales for consumer webcams and USB headsets, this took care of the immediate requirement whilst everyone adjusted to what we hoped would be temporary. Our sales teams across the country worked with our key education clients to look at ways to virtualise the teaching experience, and the timing was such that this would dramatically change the scope and landscape for the already planned Easter and Summer works. A new Hybrid / Blended teaching environment was born.

Here we share the story of one such client, University of Plymouth, who had geared up for a massive upgrade path encompassing a full refresh of rooms spanning Easter and Summer.

We were literally mid-way through surveying 17 Lecture Theatres when lockdown fell, where focus then switched to the development of the ‘Hybrid’ seminar teaching space. The impact on the ability to teach within most education establishments became very evident with the huge challenge in delivering lessons and adhering to socially distanced guidelines. New spaces needed to be created quickly where lecturers could provide an excellent experience for the limited students in the room and a much improved experience for their remote participants.

The result was 60 brand new, ‘hybrid enabled’ teaching spaces deployed. Dependent on the size of the room these featured single or dual front display screens and voice reinforcement where applicable. Each had the addition of a rear camera, ceiling mic plus new lectern. The camera feed and audio are captured by the PC and fed to Zoom for the remote participants.

Ordinarily these rooms cater for between 20 and 60 student capacity but, due to social distancing guidelines, currently are down to around 20%, some even less, making the ‘Hybrid’ flexibility within the room vital for the ongoing teaching at the University. However, with even more stringent lockdown measures seen across the UK, systems in place also need to cater for remote lectures who need to conduct their teaching sessions from separate offices or more challenging from their home / loft office. This relies heavily on fast remote internet connections and the use of quality webcam hardware, something that is a little more difficult to manage.

We still think the priority should be for students to sit in lectures - in person. But, if for any reason they can’t make it (and just like the lecture capture evolution) then the new ‘hybrid’ solutions that have been rolled out will now bring an additional selling point for any University that has invested in it. It may well open up options for offsite only courses where a student could select to ‘learn from home’ exclusively. If the content is being captured more professionally then the University has more options around how they publish and share their knowledge.

So what happened to the 17 Lecture Theatres that were aborted? They are now being revisited with the ‘hybrid’ specification upgrade.

What is certain is the Education sector and the AV industry has risen quickly to meet these challenges adopting this new way of working which will now have many benefits moving forward into a post pandemic UK.

Contact us now to see how we can help you with flexible and hybrid AV solutions to fit your needs.