AV Guidance for Teaching in the New World

The ongoing challenges of the pandemic mean that institutions are having to fundamentally change the way they teach. Thomas Vertommen, European Product Manager for Projectors at Panasonic Visual System Solutions, looks at the online tools and technology that can assist with teaching in a socially distanced world.

As far back as Aristotle, who said “The fate of empires depends on the education of youth”, the ability to teach and learn has been a fundamental pillar of our society. Yet, today The roughly 2700 higher education institutions across Europe are scrambling to find the best way to support their 20 million students. The ongoing challenges of the pandemic mean that institutions are having to fundamentally change the way they teach.

It is a rapid move towards a blended learning environment, with a mixture of students learning in traditional classrooms, lecture theatres and auditoriums and more remote learning.

For many, the practical implications of a blended learning teaching environment are only just becoming clear. Remote learning has to be more than “university by video conferencing”. The need for social distancing has also turned on its head the dynamics of in-person teaching. Smaller numbers of students, needing to be spread out across wider areas have fundamentally changed the classroom set-up and the audiovisual equipment required for teaching effectively.

Re-engineering the physical meeting space

Once the physical positioning of students in the room is clear, consideration needs to be given to the audiovisual requirements for the newly configured area. The changes in the room and the positioning of students will have a knock-on effect on the types of AV equipment required to teach effectively in the new environment. For example, students may be closer or further away from the screen and lines of sight will likely have changed.

This can be a challenge for the AV department and there are a number of key areas to consider:

  1. Knowledge is key: First, understand the needs of the users and the content they will need to share and view to accurately identify the requirements.
  2. Size: Are the existing screens and size of projection images in the room still suitable for the new layout?
  3. Viewing distances: What are the maximum and minimum viewing distances required in the newly configured space? With students more spread out; screen resolution, contrast and brightness should be considered, along with the viewing angles.
Visual points to consider before starting
Content & knowledge
Understanding the user needs and content is key
Brightness
How bright is the room? Screen brightness?
Size
Is the screen big enough
Viewing distance
What's the max & min distance possible?
Resolution
WUXGA, HD, 4K, resolution makes a difference
Viewing angle
Improving the ability to concentrate
Contrast
Defining factor on how image quality is perceived
   

There are many ways to solve these challenges. For example, replacing Full HD displays with new 4K displays means students can sit half as close again to the screen. This could provide a more comfortable, student viewing space and social distancing, without necessarily going to the expense of changing the full configuration of the room.

There are established Standards and online calculators to assist in this area. For example, Display Image Size of 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems (DISCAS) can help to identify the correct specification of technology equipment to suit any educational space. It helps to understand the size, resolution, contrast, brightness and viewing angles and distances required in any given environment.

Another useful reference document is the Image System Contrast Ratio (formerly PISCR). The standard is used to ensure good image quality. Initially, just for projection, the Projected Image System Contrast Ratio has morphed into this new single standard that covers all display types and technologies.

Audio visual specialists, such as Panasonic, have taken these concepts one step further and provided online tools to help pick the specific device for any circumstances. For example, the Panasonic Throw Distance Calculator can help calculate the optimum projector type, model and positioning for a presentation room. Users can simulate their room dimensions, equipment position and other factors such as ambient light. Capable of analysing the most precise requirements and measurements, the calculator ensures you obtain maximum performance from your Panasonic projector.

AV equipment for all scenarios

With a wide range of professional displays and projectors able to deliver crystal clear images from 43 inches to 1500 inches in screen size, leading manufacturers like Panasonic are able to advise on the best integrated technology with the correct sized display, brightness and contrast.

Depending on the viewing and learning requirements, the latest wide range of both DLP and LCD laser projectors are able to deliver the highest quality images, data and video with superb levels of reliability and low maintenance.

Historically, very large screen sizes for conference rooms and auditoriums may have relied on LED displays. However, the latest projector technology is even able to replace LED displays of this large size, with users reporting creative, commercial and operational benefits.

In addition, professional touch screen displays, with their wide viewing angles and interactive annotation capabilities can be valuable tools to enhance the learning experience. Panasonic’s extensive experience in the broadcast camera sector, also ensures that educational institutions can have access to leading remote camera systems and live switchers and mixers for blended learning and lecture capture requirements.

Despite the challenges facing the educational sector, it is reassuring to know that Panasonic is able to offer the tools, advice and a complete range of technology solutions to help quickly adjust to the new way of learning.