Higher Education: Using Video for Guest Lectures, Speakers, and Collaboration

While the corporate world is reaping the benefits of audio visual aids, videoconferencing, and cloud collaboration, the trend has touched higher education institutions as well. Classrooms have expanded beyond four walls, thanks to audio visual solutions. Teaching is more collaborative, and learning has become easier and more interactive, due to the ability to bring in guest lecturers from different parts of the world without having to stretch the budget. Ad-hoc meeting and Web RTC are powerful tools for adding guest speakers and other professors to the classroom. Providing multiple voices, increased engagement, and new learning opportunities for students, video is a boon for the future of education.

Ad-hoc Meeting is Making Learning Easy

What is Ad-hoc meeting? It is the ability to start a meeting whenever required, and the facility to talk without any prior preparation or scheduling. Ad-hoc meetings allow you to start a conference call, share your desktop with participants, share power point slides, hold group conversations, and send and receive files, all with just the click of a button. One example is Microsoft’s Lync, which has ad-hoc meeting software that can be used effectively to create a meeting environment immediately.

Video Conferencing the Right Way

In a higher education set up, two kinds of video conferencing environments can be used. First, point-to-point, where two locations are connected. Lectures can be given from one location, while students can receive them in another. Multi-point is the second, where three or more locations can be linked via a cloud based platform supported by adequate apps. In both cases, AV equipment can be used, or the students may bring their iPad or Smartphones to receive the lectures in true BYOD fashion. Factors like bandwidth, delivery method, video compression, and the standards of video conferencing should be kept in mind so that technical issues can be avoided or easily resolved.

Video conferencing works best in small groups, and is extremely beneficial for making the best use of time and budget. Thinking that video conferencing is a substitute for printed material is a mistake, however. It is a supportive tool that increases engagement and encourages students and lecturers to participate in the learning process, without boundaries.

Web RTC in Higher Education

Web Real Time Communication, or Web RTC, is an open platform which can be used free of cost by collaborators. It supports browser-to-browser applications for video conferencing requirements through either browsers or mobile applications. These platforms enable real time communication capabilities with the help of API (Application Programming Interface). The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) drafted its usage, and it has been aiding video collaborations ever since. Web RTC is especially useful for students participating in distance learning programs. It is supported by browsers such as Google, Mozilla, and Opera, and mobile platforms such as Android and iOS.

When it comes to higher education, Web RTC can a useful and budget friendly tool. The growth and popularity of online education and the benefits of the virtual environment have increased the demand for applications that will work. Web RTC addresses issues of installation and set-up cost, as well as licensing requirements. Face-to-face communication becomes possible in a convenient and cost effective way. At present, Google’s Hangout, TokBox, and Vidyo are at the helm, supporting Web RTC platforms that aid higher education through video conferencing.

Do you think video is truly revolutionizing education? Share your experience with us.

4 Emerging Trends in Digital Signage

At an age where customer engagement has dictated brand visibility, digital signage has taken a step up from being just a vehicle for distributing information, to being a complete entertainment package, captivating the audience and engaging them at the purchase point. So, what does the year 2015 hold for the future digital signage? Let’s find out.

Digital Signage – a New Age in Communication Technology

Signage boards have long been a part of advertisement strategies. As of late, the inclusion of digital technology has made using signage more flexible and functional. Signs can be customized according to requirements and they can even display buying trends in real time. The reach of digital signage has improved over the years, owing to the increased level of customer satisfaction it has achieved. Let’s consider some statistics that bolster the use of digital signage:

  • Digital Signage has a 47.7% effectiveness for brand awareness.
  • Digital Signage creates a 31.8% increase in overall sales volume.
  • 42% of retail video viewers would prefer to shop at stores that have video displays, if given the choice.
  • Digital Signage increases the average purchase amount by 29.5%.
  • Digital Signage generates 32.8% growth in repeat buyers.
  • 81% of consumers are most interested in seeing video programming for the store they are in.

Four Trends to Watch

More screens everywhere. This year, we’ll see an increase in 4K-Ultra HD screens. Low price and high resolution are driving this trend. As screens become larger, and the costs come down due to competition, there will be a proliferation of high resolution screens in digital signage. However, industry trends tell us that small screens will go into mass production and the demand for them to be located at strategic points for optimum customer engagement will be optimum. We’ll see the trend play out especially in the hospitality and retail sector.

More interactivity. Gone are the days when signage was meant to be admired and studied from a distance. Now, with signage at our fingertips, we can navigate through digital catalogues and find products or services in a store. Interactivity is the new trend in digital signage, and enterprises are leaving no stone unturned to ensure that communication gets up close and personal among the customers and their products and services. Technologies like facial recognition and near field communication (NFC) are aiding in the adoption of digital signage and aim at making the medium feel as close to consumers as users feel to their tablets and smartphones, enriching the overall experience of content consumption.

Increased use of digital signage for data visualization. Rather than simply advertising, companies and brands are going to use digital signage to help make analytics and information easier to consume, particularly in schools, at sporting events, supermarkets, and in retail stores where data is being processed and made available for quick viewing and analysis by the customers. The hospitality sector is another place where information is being rapidly processed. Digital signage will be used so that customers can browse through food menus and place their order rather than waiting for a server to take it. The latest NFC in the digital signage industry will tout the usual benefits like remote access, flexibility, easy updating, and upselling, but it will also ensure better customer engagement in the times to come.

Mobile continues to evolve. Mobile will continue to influence the purchase journey of consumers, as well as the configurations and applications of digital signage systems. The industry will have to focus on converging mobile, Internet, and display solutions to create new customer encounters and help to drive repeat sales for businesses and marketers using this complex formula.

What do you think will be the impact of these trends on the digital signage industry? Which industry trends have you been looking at? We would love to hear your thoughts.

The Basics for Good Presentation Sound

A successful live concert is perhaps one of the best examples of what great AV integrators can do with sound, light, visuals, and video. The convergence of a well planned and executed stage show can take us to another world altogether. On the other hand, we have all experienced the the screeching halt that poor AV arrangements can create, leaving a bad taste in our mouth. Everyone has experienced that ear piercing, horrible shriek when the presenter’s mic gets too close to speakers. While it may be the fault of the presenter, often times it is a problem that could be resolved with the proper setup. People may love a high-resolution video and lighting, but without good sound, a presentation can quickly lose its lustre. It’s important to make sure acoustics are considered when setting up the sound, for this reason.

AV Hardware – the Crux Behind Good Sound

Since the term “audio visuals” was coined giving equal importance to both audio and visuals, it can be correctly assumed that when audio fails, the entire presentation falls flat. So, what are the makings of a good core AV hardware setup? Although every space depending on size, shape, type of presentation will have different needs, some basic considerations are an integrated Wi-Fi or Ethernet port, Bluetooth, lots of inputs, an integrated phono stage, good streaming content, and a powerful amplifier section – all of these features may be typical of a good AV hardware setup, but the clarity and sharpness of the sound truly determines whether technology is improving the sound quality. HD surround sound features also play a role in deciding whether or not the audio is able to support the video presentations. So much depends on selecting the right AV equipment. However, to fill loopholes in your presentation sound, you can follow these tried and true steps:

  • Prepare well in advance for presentations. For smoother presentations, prep time and practice with the wireless microphones and other equipment in advance will help ensure that the entire presentation runs without glitches. It is important to check if energy sources are capable of handling the draw in order to prevent the presentation audio from dying mid-way through. You should also check all the audio inputs and outputs properly a few hours before the presentation so that you have enough time to fix them if anything is wrong.
  • Avoid audio feedbacks, reverbs, and unnecessary echoes. Feedback – that unforgettable shrilling noise – is arguably one of the most irritating sounds ever produced. Not only does it distract the audience, but it also kills their interest as they recover from the shock. While a trick is to keep the microphone at a particular distance from the speaker, a more permanent solution is to purchase audio equipment that is designed to eliminate feedback and cancel out echoes.
  • Test the audio quality. Perhaps the smartest thing to do before an AV presentation is to meticulously test the audio quality in the room, and outside if necessary, to ensure that the sound reaches equally and homogenously across the areas within range of the presentation. Sound check is also important to reduce the risk of feedback and any other sound distortion during the course of the production.

When creating the right impact on the audience, so much depends upon the sound. While the right equipment plays a major role in determining the quality of presentations, following a few basic tips, like the ones discussed above, can make a huge difference in the final outcome of any presentation.