If you talk to IT directors at universities, colleges and technical institutes around the world, there’s a good chance that they’ll tell you that the number one enemy they fight every day is complexity.
If they’ve been in their jobs for any length of time, they’ve had it with products and systems that are more complicated than they need to be.
Overly complex audio systems create some particular headaches for those building HyFlex or hybrid learning classrooms.
Challenging to install
Complex audio systems often include multiple components that can take special skills, special cables, adaptations to ceilings and more to install. Smaller teams that might want to take on installation themselves may find that it is something that they cannot do alone.
Challenging to set up
These systems often need people with specialized skills to work their magic, tweaking aspects of the system to get it just right. Some require specific certifications for technical staff. Complexity equates to time and money, both of which are often in short supply in busy IT departments.
Challenging to maintain
No sooner are complex systems set up than maintenance is needed – a further tweak here and tweak there. Support tickets are the bane of IT departments, as staff have to drop everything to get a classroom functional or back online.
Challenging to upgrade
Do you upgrade the whole system or just a piece or part? And either way, does this result in classroom downtime as you’re forced to return to the installation and setup stages?
Challenging to use
If suppliers don’t take the time to make systems simple, how likely is it that they will make them easy to use? Anyone who works with professors and lecturers can tell you that they have only so much bandwidth to deal with technology as they focus on what’s more important – their subject matter and getting their message through to their students.
How audio technology is changing
Complexity is often sold under the guise of being highly functional, even superior to simpler systems. It’s pitched as offering the ultimate in flexibility – being able to adapt to a variety of room conditions, set ups and needs. But, if flexibility comes at the cost of added complexity, is it worth it?
In the past, it might have been. But technology has advanced radically in the last decade.
Now it’s often able to carry the load itself, performing many of the functions that previously had to be done by technical staff. For example, audio systems can now automatically and continuously adapt to the acoustic properties of a classroom – meaning that there’s no need to take time to manually adjust the system.
The rise in USB devices has also made many systems interoperable right out of the box. This standard is ubiquitous and well understood – no integration work needed.
Developers are also changing their approach to design, with the goal of hiding complexity in all aspects of a product’s deployment and use. Adaptable presets take the thinking away from professors, meaning they can focus more on teaching and less on the technology. And central management tools mean that systems can stay up to date and run effectively without IT staff needing to visit the classroom.
The COVID impact
When considering the cost of complexity, it’s also important to think about the types of classrooms that need audio systems. There was a time when a fully decked out audiovisual setup would have been reserved for a small handful of spaces. For these unique rooms, a complex system that could be very finely tuned may have made sense.
That’s no longer the reality for most postsecondary institutions. HyFlex and hybrid learning were already on the rise before 2020, and the pandemic sharply accelerated the number of learning spaces that need to connect in-person and remote participants.
When I’ve talked to IT directors, it’s clear that not every room needs a traditional multicomponent audio setup and the adjustment that comes with it. And it’s simply not scalable when thinking about the hundreds of audio-enabled rooms that many colleges and universities are now creating and supporting. Finding solutions that simplify installation, maintenance and use is going to become even more important.
An easier approach
The issue of complexity is something we’ve been thinking about since Nureva began.
When we developed our first audio system – the HDL300 – we started from a simple premise. We aimed to provide a high level of audio performance while making everything as easy as could be. We held up the IT director as our prototypical customer, and we worked on every detail of the product to address the needs of the IT team and end user.
Microphone Mist™ technology came out of this commitment to simplicity. To be clear, developing our patented technology was anything but simple. But by taking an innovative approach to audio conferencing, we were able to pass on a much easier experience to our customers.
With Microphone Mist technology, you don’t have to worry about dead zones – thousands of virtual microphones ensure that no matter where people sit or move, their voices will be picked up.
Because rooms don’t have to be carefully configured, and there aren’t a large number of components to deal with, installation becomes simple. It takes no specialized tools or skills to hang our microphone and speaker bar on the wall and connect the cables. It can even be done by your own IT team.
And when a classroom changes – to accommodate a different course or add new furniture – there’s no need to do any recalibration or install new components. Thanks to continuous autocalibration, everything just works.
Audio systems don’t need to be complex. In fact, they should be anything but complex. And I’m proud that at Nureva, we’re doing everything we can to create products that can be as simple as they are effective.
Checklist: 8 audio essentials for HyFlex and hybrid learning
Does your audio system pick up student voices in your entire learning space – while still being easy to install and maintain? These are just a few crucial items that higher ed audio needs to deliver. See what else is on the list – download your checklist today (no email address required).
Posted on July 21, 2021