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Edtech Q&A: AV’s growing role in educational environments

Ben Taylor, CEO of Cassette Group, on the role of AV and immersive technology in education, and how it can help to modernise and improve

Is technology being fully utilised in current education systems?
The short answer is no, and I’d go even further and say the way we learn has been outdated for over a century. There have been so many technological advancements that could be used in a school environment, however we are still relying on the same format, which is essentially one teacher sharing their knowledge with a large group. The main difference now is that they use an interactive whiteboard instead of a chalkboard. This style of teaching does not resonate with every student. We all have slightly different ways of learning, with some styles being more effective than others. Utilising new technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and AI can help cater to those other learning styles and provide tailored and memorable experiences. 

What role can new technologies play in modernising and improving education?
New technology in the AV and immersive space can help be a great leveller for all the different learners. Being able to learn in a different way can produce more real-life scenarios for students and thus better prepare them post school. Having more adaptable technology can help offer personalised, competency-based learning models that will empower individuals to thrive in a rapidly changing world.

One of the most exciting aspects of this comes from creating immersive learning experiences that transcend the confines of traditional classrooms. VR, AR, and AI have the potential to revolutionise training by providing interactive, hands-on learning experiences that nurture critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-solving skills. Imagine a scenario where students can step into a virtual simulation of a real-world work environment, where they can practice their skills and make mistakes without real-world consequences. VR and AR can provide learners with a tangible platform to acquire new skills, thus bringing learning to life in a way that was previously impossible.

What are the main barriers preventing immersive and AV tech from being adopted?
The first and most important barrier to overcome would be changing the minds of those who are reluctant to change. The most senior members of a board or team will already have a set way of doing things. Helping to change their mindset on how technology can improve learning outcomes for their students, while improving efficiencies for themselves will be key to overcoming this. There is a perspective that these types of technologies are here to take people’s jobs when the reality is that they are here to make life easier. 

The cost of acquiring and maintaining the hardware for AV and immersive tech can also prevent a greater adoption. High-quality VR headsets, AR devices, and other immersive tools can be expensive, and ongoing maintenance and software updates can further increase costs. Delivering similar content over web based platforms, removing the need for specialist hardware could overcome this barrier in certain circumstances.  

Additionally, training educators to effectively use these technologies may require additional resources and time.

What are the logistical challenges of implementing these technologies in an education setting?
A challenge will be ensuring that the infrastructure of the educational institution can support the implementation of AV and immersive technologies. This includes having adequate internet bandwidth to support streaming and downloading large files, as well as having the necessary hardware and software in place to run immersive experiences smoothly.

Another aspect to consider will revolve around the technical support needed. AV and immersive technologies can be complex to set up and troubleshoot, requiring specialised technical knowledge. Educational institutions may need to invest in dedicated technical support staff or training for existing staff to ensure that issues can be resolved quickly and effectively.

Away from education, in a corporate setting, how can these technologies improve a company’s performance?
In this day and age, it has become more difficult for employees to feel like they’re learning new skills in the workplace. While hybrid working has created better working environments for many, a fair criticism to acknowledge revolves around the lack of proper mentoring. Video calling has certainly helped with travel costs and company-wide meetings, but there is a limit to what it can serve.

These new technologies can bridge the gap between remote and in-person learning, enabling managers and employees to feel connected despite being miles apart. Through VR meetings and collaborative virtual environments, teams can work together in ways that mimic the dynamics of face-to-face interactions, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collaboration even in a virtual setting. Having access to ongoing training that doesn’t require a two-hour travel time to reach can save the company so much time and money. For instance, in a school setting, being able to practise new skills by “doing” instead of just in theory will lead to stronger retention and therefore more qualified employees

Is there an appetite for change?
When innovative technology emerges, there often exists a natural resistance to change. However, even with this considered, there has been a promising 80 per cent growth rate in extended reality (XR) adoption within the education sector over the past five years, indicating a growing eagerness to embrace this transformative approach to learning. Looking ahead, PwC forecasts that VR training alone will contribute a substantial £294bn to the global economy by 2030.

From a pragmatic standpoint, integrating immersive technologies can yield significant time-saving benefits within various industries. Leveraging it for training can offer a more efficient and effective solution as this approach enables individuals to learn with greater efficacy, and also facilitates a meaningful connection between managers and employees. Moreover, the immersive nature of the training experience ensures that learners can engage with the material in a more interactive and memorable manner, enhancing retention and practical application of skills in real-world scenarios.