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Better classroom audio conferencing leads to greater engagement – and fewer fires

Dave McKean
Posted by Dave McKean on Aug 27, 2019 12:30:00 AM
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Dennis Baldwin is putting out fewer fires these days. He’s still fighting literal fires in his main job as a firefighter. But in his job as a technical assistant in the Center for Instructional Technology Expertise at Bristol Community College in Massachusetts, he’s putting out far fewer figurative fires – in the form of troubleshooting audio systems – thanks to the college’s purchase of five Nureva™ HDL300 audio conferencing systems.

No more troubleshooting

“I used to spend significant time at the start of the day in classrooms making sure our traditional audio conferencing systems were up and running,” said Dennis. “But the HDL300 systems just work like you think they should. Ever since we installed them, I’ve never been back to those classrooms. So, I’ve gained hours and hours each week.”

Gaining time for Dennis and other IT team members to concentrate on higher value tasks is a nice bonus of their school’s HDL300 purchase, but the new audio conferencing systems are helping the college do something really amazing: improving students’ engagement in classes.

Classes delivered via audio and video conferencing

Audio conferencing is vital to Bristol’s use of distributed synchronous classes. This is an approach that allows students gathered in meeting rooms in Bristol’s four locations to attend the same class held by the same instructor by tuning in through audio and video conferencing. This allows the school to gain a critical mass of students for classes that might not attract enough students at a single location. The school can offer – and students can attend – more classes.

Professor at a podium in higher education classroom

The effects of bad audio

But there was a problem. Students in remote classrooms were experiencing bad audio that made it difficult for them to engage with the instructor and participate in class discussions. And that can cause students to tune out.

Traditional solutions didn’t deliver

So Bristol tried a range of solutions. A well-known mic/speaker/camera bar had decent pickup for the instructor. But, as Dennis explains, “When you had group collaboration where there were multiple people speaking at once, all the audio streams got truncated into one stream. Students in distant locations couldn’t hear properly so they couldn’t participate.”

Bristol tried a tabletop mic system next. Now side conversations overpowered the instructor’s voice, hampering conversations. The lapel mic solution they tried after was worst of all for allowing and inspiring classroom collaboration because only the instructor could be heard. Plus, there were usability issues and an ongoing hassle of replacing batteries.

The HDL300 allows natural conversations for remote participants

Bristol’s AV supplier, Red Thread, then suggested a new solution: the Nureva HDL300 audio conferencing system. “We did a live online demo and immediately liked what we heard,” said Dennis. “The thing that impressed us most is that when you had multiple people in that same room – whether it was five people on our end and two people on Nureva’s end – we could actually talk to individual people simultaneously. And since the system is full duplex, there was no cutting in and cutting out. It’s almost like you’re there in a face-to-face environment.”

Bristol took steps to procure funding to order five HDL300 units for rooms ranging from 20' x 20' (6 x 6 m) to 20' x 40' (6 x 12 m) – most with a conventional boardroom configuration. Installation was easy and “very straightforward,” said Dennis. “But the beautiful thing we noticed was that no matter where you mount a unit – we tried a few different placements – it calibrates to the room. Anywhere you were, the audio sounded like you were perfectly in line with it.”

Bristol college meeting room

Bristol college meeting room

A “night and day” improvement

Feedback from instructors was excellent. “We’ve heard nothing but praise,” said Dennis. “It’s night and day. There’s no comparison between what we had before and what we have now.”

As for the students, Dennis got the best response he could hope for from them. None. “We didn’t get any more complaints, which to us is positive feedback. When the audio is working properly, people just don’t notice it. And that’s fine.”

College students engaged during a lecture

Allows IT to use its time better

The hours Dennis gains at Bristol, thanks to the HDL300, he can now use for more valuable tasks like a recent initiative to do an accessibility audit of some of its platforms. As he says, “I finally get to act proactively rather than reactively to what’s happening.” And that’s better for everyone at Bristol.

Dennis and the IT team at Bristol Community College are not saving lives (like Dennis does as a firefighter), but by bringing in an audio conferencing system that pleases faculty, frees up time to support broader learning initiatives and ensures students have more learning opportunities, we think they’re heroes, too.


Learn about the HDL300 audio conferencing system difference

The HDL300 for mid-size spaces and Dual HDL300 system for large spaces provide true full-room pickup, continuous autocalibration, easy installation and great value. With their Active Zone Control feature, the systems provide exceptional performance for lecture scenarios, including lecture capture.

Learn more

Topics: Technology in Education HDL300 System Higher Education Audio Conferencing