Going beyond instructional continuity and toward a higher level of connectivity.

If you hear the term “connected classroom” today, you might immediately think of a classroom/instructor that’s virtually “connected” to remote students. 2020 saw higher education, faculty, staff, and students pivoting rapidly to remote learning models, and even partial back-to-campus models include huge remote teaching elements.

But your higher-ed customers are already looking beyond the need to maintain instructional continuity. They’re actively seeking solutions for enabling better, not just “good enough,” connected classrooms. So, what are some of the top technology trends in higher ed facilitating truly connected classrooms? How can you help your higher-ed customers succeed in the new campus landscape and the new pedagogy that’s about way more than Zoom or Teams meetings?

Here are some top tech trends:

Better tools for both synchronous and asynchronous models:
Many classes that have transitioned to a remote model have done so with a synchronous modality. This is where instructors and students gather, remotely, at the same time and interact in “real time.” But research shows that asynchronous instruction, where instructors prepare course materials for students in advance and students access the materials when they choose, is how the majority of online learning takes place.

Schools need to look to their solution providers for the latest plug-ins and feature upgrades to help with both synchronous and asynchronous models. If they’re not spec’ing to the latest needs, such as better network security and privacy features and the ability to move between breakout discussion groups, they’ll always be playing catch up.

New features to look for, either from the big platforms or from third parties, include a better ability to record sessions, better tools for cybersecurity, and adherence to privacy protocols. In fact, privacy and security issues are exacerbated with a growing bring your own device (BYOD) trend among both students and faculty. Fortunately, SYNNEX has education-specific market advisors to help sort out the best device, network, software, and peripheral solutions.

In-classroom tools for better interaction:
No matter how much instructors blend remote learning with in-class instruction, students will only be engaged by the best in-classroom tools. That’s why schools are investing heavily in large digital video displays (LCD panels, LED displays), digital whiteboards, and new-generation video projectors. A few examples include:

New-generation digital whiteboards allow multiple presenters to collaborate and share work in real time, including remote participation. Solutions are often open platform. And a new breed of Windows Collaboration Displays is raising the bar for collaboration. For the latter, interactive display providers such as Sharp and Avocor leverage the power of the latest interactive display features with the Microsoft 365 and Teams ecosystem.

A new era of video projection: The best projector manufacturers – such as Epson, NEC, and Panasonic – offer multiple projector options for normal or short-throw/ultra-short throw applications, for high-lumen/small footprint application, both 4K enhanced and native 4K projectors, and more.

Short-throw and ultra-short throw projectors are more popular in classrooms now because they can be mounted very close to, and above, the projection screen. This eliminates the challenge of the instructor not being able to stand right in front of the screen. And the recent revolution in the projector world – the move to “lamp-free” laser phosphor projectors that never require lamp replacement – now means the total cost of ownership for projectors has declined precipitously, making projection much more affordable for schools.

Key takeaway: Even before the 2020 disruptions, better quality digital display, connectivity, and video-based collaboration products were becoming more affordable and more accessible to schools and universities. The “technology gap”– the gap between schools’ technology wish lists and their budgets – was closing.

Going forward, it’s important to note that vast financial resources are still available to schools. Much of the CARES Act funding has yet to be allocated, but many solution providers aren’t sure how to access it. As the only distributor with former higher-education professionals on staff, SYNNEX can help. These market advisors understand both the technological needs and solutions and the pathways to accessing government funding and other resources to support higher-ed’s new mission: creating better, more connected classrooms.