Schools everywhere are coming to grips with the harsh realities of COVID-19 and their need to deliver education in a sometimes rapidly changing environment. While it’s clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all schools and districts, it’s also evident that the best solution may change as the school year progresses and local conditions change.
For some, the current sense of urgency is almost at a panic level. They must have something, anything, in place now. There is little time for thinking and planning. Decisions are being made as schools open their doors and welcome their students back for the first time since mid-March. Ready. Fire. Aim.
To be clear, schools that are reopening and welcoming teachers and students back to the classroom are also preparing for a sudden change in direction where learning goes all virtual and students head back home. The watchword here is about being prepared.
The essential factor
As all these preparations are being made, I want to urge IT managers and educators to place the greatest emphasis on how remote students experience synchronous hybrid learning. While you might think that this means video, for me it’s all about audio.
If students cannot hear, they cannot engage. If they’re not engaged, they cannot learn. If they cannot learn, there is no point.
Apply the same test to video, and you’ll quickly appreciate that even without video, students can hear what the teacher is saying and follow along with the class. In fact, when you look around a classroom filled with students, you will see that many of the students are looking at their notebooks or computers or off into space – not looking at the teacher at all. While video adds a dimension to remote learning, it is not essential the way audio is.
It is well accepted that many students are hearing-challenged. If they are challenged to hear the teacher when they are in the classroom with the teacher right there in front of them, imagine those children trying to stay focused when they’re home trying to learn through a computer screen.
Now add a mask to the faces of teachers and students who are in the classroom, and many more remote students could struggle to hear what’s happening.
Poor-quality audio exhaustion
Now that I have been remote for an extended period, I know how exhausting poor-quality audio can be. As businesspeople, my colleagues and I have important work to complete, and hearing conversations clearly and fully enables our active participation. If we can’t hear and be heard, then we can’t communicate.
It’s so much easier to just disengage and do something else than to constantly ask, “Could you repeat that?” Why would we think that it would be any different for remote students who have difficulty hearing their teacher or classmates who are in the classroom?
Students have already suffered through hastily arranged at-home learning experiences earlier this year. At the time, most thought that this was a short-term arrangement. Now that it is clear that learning from home is a longer-term necessity, it’s time to establish system requirements that will deliver the remote experience that students need.
As educators and IT teams define and acquire systems to offer the flexibility for hybrid and fully remote learning, remember the top 3 requirements for a positive from-home synchronous learning experience. Audio. Audio. Audio.
Checklist: 8 audio essentials for classrooms
Does your audio system allow teachers to move around the classroom freely as they teach – and know their voices will be picked up everywhere? This is one of eight must-haves for effective classroom audio. See what else is on the list – download your checklist today (no email address required).
Posted on October 7, 2020