Why immersive digital experiences are the future of Higher Education

With the cost of living crisis squeezing a huge number of households, it’s no wonder that a recent study suggested that up to a third of this year’s freshers would opt to live at home while studying. But students looking for alternatives to their local offering will not be disappointed, as remote options for higher education are increasing. With this expanding market for online learning, higher education institutions are readying themselves and investing in technology.

When COVID-19 forced education establishments online almost overnight, some institutions were better prepared than others. Some – such as Harrow School – had already announced their intention to launch a virtual educational offering, and were more prepared to go digital almost overnight, while others took rather longer pivoting to remote teaching, as they had not already been investing in systems that would enable them to make that transition. But with the pandemic receding into our memories, it certainly looks like online education is here to stay, and this time plans for tech-enabled learning can be carefully thought out, rather than implemented in a rush.

The growth of remote learning

McKinsey researchers noted in 2022 that both interest and participation in online learning is continuing to grow, with universities launching online programmes to capitalise on this demand. Thanks to EdTech solutions, e-learning is becoming more enjoyable and compelling, and ever closer to the rich, engaging experience of in-person attendance.

The quality of this experience is critical to both student satisfaction and performance. One of the criticisms levelled at some universities during lockdown provision was that the remote learning was more akin to watching a YouTube video – which meant that it was a fairly passive exercise, with little opportunity to get involved, and in turn this meant that students were more likely to ‘switch off’ (metaphorically). As a result, little learning would occur.

In contrast, a thoughtfully designed remote offering facilitated by cutting-edge technology could overcome the drawbacks of some online courses.

Elevating the online learning experience

One of the key aspects of the remote learning experience is virtual collaboration and knowledge sharing – essentially, the recreation of the interactive elements of a seminar or workshop. Students should be able to engage with the tutor and each other, both for discussions and to ask questions, or perhaps to work together on a particular set task or project. 

This might take the form of a purpose-built virtual classroom (such as this one we completed for Imperial College London, or the new eLEAF facility at Cardiff University), with bi-direction audiovisual capabilities and a host of collaboration and content sharing tools, for the most immersive experience for remote attendees, as well as the capacity to teach in-person students where there is a blended offering. With assigned ‘seats’ for students on a video wall, and perspective view cameras, tutors can pick up on visual clues as well as speak directly to individuals, so create as natural an experience as possible.

Specialist tuition can be facilitated with the right specification, too. Recently we completed a project which involved creating 71 individual clinical workstations and a lecturer’s station at the Eastman Dental Institute, which enabled the institution to expand its into the online global delivery of its postgraduate courses, as well as navigate the challenges of their Listed building location (which prohibited the creation of open-plan spaces by knocking down walls). 

Meeting students’ expectations

Another reason behind many higher education institutions making significant investment in technology is the increasing demand for higher quality online learning from the market itself. Expectations must be met in order to remain competitive. With technology so infused into our everyday experiences, and slick tech experiences available in almost every part of our working and home life, is it any wonder that today’s students have high expectations of their higher education provision? 

As digital natives, the latest generation of learners in their late teens and early twenties simply cannot remember a time before the internet, and are used to the ease and convenience of accessing quality services online. Education providers are responding, able to differentiate their offering using cutting edge tech used in innovative ways, not just safeguarding their future but in many cases pushing into new overseas markets.

IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

COLLABORATIVE SPACES FOR MULTI-MODAL LEARNING

In an innovation-focused research hub, cutting-edge AV technology in two educational spaces provides a richer learning experience for postgraduate business school students.

  • Harvard-style teaching room with multi-modal enhancements
  • Flexible and divisible space for group or whole-room learning
  • Intuitive, easy-to-use technology ensures focus on education 

“This was an extremely satisfying and very well-delivered project. Exemplary collaboration between everyone involved, focus on the common goal, and great attention to detail enabled an amazing result given all the challenges of COVID-19, all within cost and programme and to a very high quality. The vision, technical knowledge and flexibility was truly commendable.” 

Monika Kojak, Estates Operations Manager, Imperial College London

To download a PDF of the full case study click here.

CARDIFF UNIVERSITY

FLEXIBLE, SCALABLE E-LEARNING CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE

In order to expand their capacity for a remote study offering, including both learning and assessment, Cardiff University invested in cutting-edge technology for their new £1.9m e-Learning and e-Assessment Facility (e-LEAF).

  • Crestron NXV system for flexibility, scalability and security
  • Device-agnostic wired and wireless connectivity
  • Lecturer-orientated display controls

“As a school and a university, we have a reputation for scientific excellence, researchled teaching, and teaching innovation. Thanks to the collaboration with Aura and Crestron, the eLEAF facility allows us to build on our successes by supporting the delivery of a UK leading curriculum for life sciences students, and more widely will provide real added value to the students of Cardiff University.” 

Peter Dunsire, Senior Project Manager Cardiff University

To download a PDF of the full case study click here.

To find out more about our bespoke tech solutions suitable for a wide range of college and university applications, please get in touch with our friendly team on 0207 2 400 800.

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