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AV Q&A: Gary Kayye Shares Insights on The Future of Education

AV Q&A: Gary Kayye Shares Insights on The Future of Education

There is no doubt that the pandemic has changed the way universities can reach students.  Pre-pandemic, unless students attended a completely virtual university, they had to attend classes in person, which limited the flexibility of the students and staff.  During the pandemic, everything went virtual and students and staff could be in their homes learning and teaching.  When the world started opening up, students were given the opportunity to learn in a hybrid model, some in the classroom if they felt comfortable going to class in person, and some still at home.  With the help of AV technology, learning and teaching is now more interactive and engaging than ever.

Many in the AV industry might be familiar with the innovative work and reporting of Gary Kayye, founder of rAVe pubs and teaching assistant professor at the University of North Carolina (UNC). Pre-pandemic, you probably saw Gary and his dedicated rAVe crew conducting camera interviews at major industry trade shows such as InfoComm and the Digital Signage Expo. With his first-hand experience in academia, we thought it would be compelling to get the inside scoop from Gary on how AV is shaping the future of education and learning. We hope you find his perspective as insightful as we did! 

Sharp: As someone who’s in the AV space and teaches at a university, what major trends are you seeing right now?

Gary: During the Spring of 2021, UNC allowed staff and students to return to the classroom at 50% capacity, and considering many students wanted to be back on campus, I had to create a rotating schedule to decide which students were allowed to come in person on which days. It was during this period that I built a true “hyflex” classroom to meet the needs of my students, and I can confidently say I see the future of education trending towards this kind of model. A true hyflex classroom can add additional revenue streams for universities and needed flexibility for students and staff.
 

Sharp: What is a true hyflex model?

Gary: A true hyflex model is like a hybrid model but is set up in a way that you can see and hear the students as if you’re in the class with them. In a hyflex classroom, there would be a screen at the back of the room to display students who are joining the class virtually, making it appear and feel like the students are sitting in the back row of the classroom.

This additional screen provides many benefits to professors and students alike. The first is that students can attend class even if they’re in a different state, like for a school sporting event, or if they are sick and don’t feel up to the commute. It also benefits the professors by giving them an additional point of reference for their materials. Having a screen at the back of the room allows professors to check if their content is displaying the way they’d like. In this setup, virtual students can also participate with a chat function, allowing professors to promote engagement among students to foster a more seamless teaching experience.

Another point to keep in mind when setting up a hyflex classroom is prioritizing audio. We incorporated mic arrays and sophisticated Digital Signal Processing (DSP) based microphones into classrooms to ensure the highest audio quality possible. The mic arrays are able to pick up voices from anywhere in the classroom without the need for a microphone, and the DSP microphones ensure that if a student is opening a bag of chips, it does not drown out the audio of the speaker.
 

Sharp: You mentioned hyflex models can serve as an additional revenue model for universities. Can you expand on that?

Gary: Yes, of course! Currently universities can only host a specific number of students due to room sizes and can only offer courses within their curriculum, but a true hyflex model could expand these possibilities exponentially.

For example, UNC is a public school, so it is chartered to only teach students within the borders of North Carolina, but even if it wanted to offer classes to students attending a sister university within the state, it may not have the space to host them. A hyflex model gives universities the potential to serve many more students in different locations, while still providing quality experiences.
 

Sharp: Do you think most integrators or resellers are aware of this?  

Gary: If an integrator has been to an online event on the subject or has been close to the higher education vertical, they probably know what hyflex is, or at least they have heard of it. However, one of the problems we have is that hyflex is a relatively new term, so there are many interpretations on how this could look and be defined. 

To help make sense of this term and share perspectives on a true hyflex model, UNC published the design for our classrooms, and many universities around the country downloaded it for inspiration. It’s exciting that this transformation and innovative thinking is being shared, but to truly define the hyflex model, more colleges will need to adopt it.

Sharp: Do you think this trend will live on beyond the pandemic? Is true hyflex adoption far down the road?

Gary: Yes, I believe this will be beneficial far beyond the pandemic. Having the ability to join class in person or remotely will only benefit students. Think of it this way: if a student is unable to make it to class, many professors will not take the time to catch them up. With the ability to dial in virtually, students don’t have to feel like they’re missing important information that could be vital for an exam or upcoming project.

In terms of how far down the road we can expect adoption, it’s hard to tell. This truly depends on when universities realize the benefit of such designs and decide to adopt the hyflex models as a standard, because the technology is available. The hyflex model can significantly boost revenue and holds huge potential.

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