Socially Distanced Academic Design
Garth Hemphill | August 8, 2020
Learning will look and feel different for teachers and students during the COVID19 pandemic. Right now, academic administrators are determining ways to support teachers in providing a high quality education to students in a socially distanced space. Audio and video design can play a major role in how administrators ensure their school provides a high-value program that goes beyond basic online lectures. And, social distanced design can even help non-traditional courses in performing arts, labs, and clinics.
Jaffe Holden has a full toolkit of customizable audio and video solutions established through more than 50 years of experience designing smart systems for academic environments. We are leaders in the industry and can help your academic project quickly push beyond a static video lecture and provide students with a dynamic and engaging learning experience.
Audio and Video Technology to Solve Distance Challenges
There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the school year due to the impact of coronavirus. Colleges, universities and K-12 schools are using a mix of on-campus, distance, and hybrid learning opportunities for students. Many institutions have well-established standards for distance learning AV systems for general classrooms, but what systems, devices, and technology should be used in non-standard classroom environments like chemistry labs, nursing clinics, maker-space classes, interactive classrooms, and performing arts spaces?
With institutions coming to grips with CDC recommendations including six-foot distancing requirements, classrooms might be 1/3 full, with remaining students learning in nearby overflow classrooms, at home, or even in their dorm rooms. How can these displaced students thrive and be fully engaged in their education?
Some faculty will not feel comfortable working on screen but prefer older working styles on the white or black-board, and interacting with students in an informal question and answer manner. In non-standard classrooms, like theater, dance music, film, science labs, electronics labs, and technical training classes, it takes more than screen sharing and lectures to provide a high-quality education!
Jaffe Holden Provides Relief and Solutions
Q: How can a music professor critique a performance or give a lesson on an instrument so that remote students hear as well as those in class?
A: Jaffe Holden has extensive experience in high quality recording. We understand the need for high quality capture of audio, as well as being able to reproduce it on the other end accurately.
A high quality microphone placed close to the instrument allows capture of the subtle nuances of each instrument and each player. Mixing it with a room microphone adds just the right amount of ambiance. Hearing local students’ comments and distributing the same high quality, inexpensive headphones to students ensures that everyone experiences sound in the same way. This gives the educational process a strong base to provide an accurate reproduction of the natural sound. Critique is free of bias from differences in headphones or speakers and from the tone of the room.
Rehearsing ensembles is obviously a problem, especially for brass and wind players. The goal should be to rehearse them in separate rooms in the same building – a straightforward solution. But how do you rehearse an ensemble with players in different buildings and maybe even in different cities? Distance does present challenges in achieving a usable latency between players, however there are tools available to help. With the right network connection and internet bandwidth, an ensemble can play together – but distanced – with an acceptable amount of latency.
The key to success is proper design and proper configuration of audio equipment, computers, and network connections. There are several things to consider when trying to keep the latency to a minimum. At the start of the chain, using a professional computer audio interface that supports very low latency is important, as is adjusting the internal latency to as low a value as possible. The lower you go, the more glitches you will hear and the harder your computer processor has to work. So, using a computer with a fast processor and fast RAM memory, dial down the latency of the interface until you reach a point of unacceptable quality… then come back up a little.
Next you need to optimize your connection to your network. In simple terms, this means use a hardwired connection to the network instead of a Wi-Fi connection. The next step is to make sure that your internet connection is fast enough. The faster the better, but it really shouldn’t be less than 50 Mbps uplink. At that low a rate, you might need to limit other network traffic if possible, and router optimization can also help. If your fellow musicians optimize in the same manner, and are not too far away, you can have a successful session together.
Q: How do we provide worship services in a socially distanced environment?
A: Bringing worship to the congregation and making them still feel like they are part of the experience is half of the challenge. Having multiple camera angles with different views, some wide, some close up and switching between them helps keep the image dynamic and attention grabbing. Quality audio capture is critical. The needs of the distanced congregation in the room are different from those who are remote, so having a separate split of the audio sources being mixed specifically for recording and streaming makes a big difference in quality.
The other half of the challenge is making the remote congregation’s presence felt in the church so that worship leaders feel their energy, and so that the entire congregation, regardless of location, has that shared experience that is so integral to worship. Projecting remote participants in the room connects them visually with the service. Adding their audio into the room also helps the worship team feel the energy of the entire congregation.
Q: How will you teach a kinesthetic (movement, physical therapy, dance class) with social distancing limitations in place?
A: Multiple camera angles can be combined into a windowed image so the remote student can view the instructor from three or more different angles at the same time. Now students can focus on what they need to see, while other students may want to see a different angle. The teacher does not need to turn in different directions in front of a single camera, wasting precious time repeating instructions. Simple controls allow this to happen effortlessly, even for the non-technically inclined.
Q: How do you facilitate learning in labs, maker-spaces, and technology-based equipment?
A: An overhead camera can zoom in on fine details of the equipment, experiment, or demonstration. It connects wirelessly with a display through a simple switcher. Remote students, perhaps in an adjacent classroom, or in their dorm rooms, can be displayed on a large screen to encourage group participation.
Q: How do we support a lecturing professor that continually moves around a whiteboard and desires active student participation?
Jaffe Holden utilizes the most up to date tracking camera technology to give the instructor freedom to move. A wireless microphone on the instructor and a simple wireless controller means no cables to drag around, and you can switch the outgoing video between the instructor camera, a document camera, a microscope camera, or any other specialty camera needed, also allowing for the instructor to stay present in a smaller window in the video stream. Zoning overhead loudspeakers allow the remote audio to be heard everywhere in the class but limits the instructor’s mic audio to the remote student feed, and loudspeakers over the local students.
Q: How can technology help instructors teach technical skills such as welding?
A: Jaffe Holden designs easy to use systems that have special camera filters that limit light levels, so the optics are not damaged, even under high brightness and heat levels. Simple switchers allow both video and audio to be toggled between close-up and wide-angle views and follow the instructor as they move to engage the students fully.
Jaffe Holden is the industry leader in standard remote learning technology and in highly specialized audio and video technologies. We have 50 years of experience in academic learning environments and can work with IT and technology departments to provide a custom design that works for challenging class environments. We start with a basic design for hybrid learning, and then customize a specific solution by building on that base design and adding the specific equipment needed for your particular needs. This method allows you to have a standardized package with a toolkit of additional devices that can be shared as required between classrooms to handle specific requirements.
To move quickly in concert with your facilities department, we have partnered with highly reputable and responsive AV contractors in different regions. If you need these solutions in a hurry, we can expedite that process with a design/build package. In the Texas region, we have partnered with the highly respected Hairel Enterprises out of Houston for complete installation and on-call services.
Academic administrators are facing a challenge. Jaffe Holden is here to help with our toolkit of customizable audio and video solutions to help your academic project meet and exceed the requirements of socially distanced learning to provide meaningful education.
If you or a colleague are struggling with this issue, please contact Garth Hemphill, Associate Principal of Audio/Video, at GHemphill@JaffeHolden.com or at 713.807.7100 extension 101 so he can walk you through our offering.