Classrooms Need a ‘Voice Elevator’ to Adapt to the New Normal

After being one of the first countries in the world to fully transition students to online learning in the wake of Covid-19, the UAE has been equally effective in restarting in-person classes. With the primary concerns of parents and guardians being the well-being of their children, it is understandable that the greatest importance when re-entering students into classrooms has been to ensure that health and safety protocols exist. appropriate are developed and adhered to. Now that these measures have been effectively implemented and proven, it is time for schools and universities to adapt classrooms and lecture halls to the new challenges that have emerged in the post-Covid world.

Evolution of learning spaces
As a result of measures such as social distancing, the pandemic has fundamentally altered the way we relate to the space around us. While the solution may seem simple – letting fewer learners in and keeping them well separated – keeping person-to-person proximity within acceptable limits poses unique challenges in classrooms, auditoriums and other facilities that make up the classroom. typical educational institution.

Additionally, while blended learning has recently been catapulted into the limelight as a solution to Covid-related challenges, its benefits go beyond simply optimizing classroom and office occupancy. maintaining social distance. This model offers students unparalleled levels of flexibility. With the ability to record lectures, it allows them to choose not only where, but also when they learn. Now that universities have to compete not only with each other, but with increasingly professional and comprehensive online learning platforms that have exploded in popularity over the past year, allowing students to learn as they wish it will be the key to success, especially for higher education institutions. . Embracing blended learning is no longer an option, so schools and universities need to adapt to the demands that arise from this paradigm.

Consideration for the modern classroom
Besides the obvious restrictions in communication and the ability to understand each other clearly while being physically distant from each other, several factors such as classmates joining at a distance, chatty students, noise from air conditioning, repetitive sounds such as typing and tapping as well as poor room acoustics can now dramatically impact the way students interact with a lecturer and with each other. In this context, schools and universities must now seek to adapt their current spaces to new requirements.

Reassessing existing A / V equipment becomes crucial to this process.

With some students joining in-person lectures or seminars and others participating virtually through conferencing apps like Zoom or Microsoft Teams, institutions need to invest in effective audio ecosystems that not only connect virtual attendees to presenters, but watch also the big picture: ensuring good quality sound in the room between all the physical members, as well as the connection of the members in the room with virtual participants. All groups need to be able to freely interact with each other and get along well, whether they are online or where the person is seated in the classroom or conference room.

Elevate hearing experiences
Voice Lift technology plays a crucial role in making the vision of a seamless hybrid classroom a reality. It uses components of a traditional audio system to provide voice amplification to all participants in a room. The beauty of such a system is that it only increases the speech level by a few decibels (dB) to account for the decrease in speech intelligibility due to the distance between people in the room. The effect is so subtle that it is often not even noticed by physical participants, let alone virtual participants.

Voice Lift technology can help overcome poor room acoustics and compensate for the decrease in speech intelligibility that accompanies social distancing in large rooms. Like a conventional sound system, Voice Lift technology requires components such as microphones, amplifiers, digital signal processors, and speakers. And – in the days of Covid-19 and beyond – it is the microphone side that presents the most practical option for optimizing a voice elevation system.

Hybrid education is here to stay
Classrooms that blend the physical and virtual worlds are here to stay. The benefits they offer to higher education facilities beyond contactless audio and convenience are obvious. For universities, distance students have become an additional source of income, and offering sophisticated solutions for distance participation will make courses more attractive to distance students.

The addition of voice elevator technology will make these hybrid experiences enjoyable for students attending classes in person: remote audio is clearly understandable anywhere in the room, and a presenter is clearly heard regardless. the distance at which one can be seated. Voice elevator systems provide a very natural and seamless communication experience between all members of the chat, whether they are located in the same room or participating from a distance. In so doing, they enable educational institutions not only to meet the challenges of the pandemic, but also to effectively adapt to new paradigms in education that are sure to endure long into the post-COVID era.

Ryan Burr is Technical Sales and Application Engineering Manager, Professional Audio at Sennheiser Middle East


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Norma A. Roth