Hearing can be the portal to learning. But a number of factors can interfere with a student’s ability to listen and hear well, even if that student hasn't been diagnosed with a hearing impairment.
Classroom acoustical features, reverberation of sound, the size of the room and distance between the teacher and students, as well as the level of ambient and background noise can all negatively impact a student’s ability to hear.
Once only targeted at hearing impaired students, classroom audio solutions are now designed to improve the hearing experience of all students, and they are increasingly seen as critical to successful education outcomes.
AVI Systems helps higher education harness the latest technology, from lecture capture to distance learning. Learn more.
According to a long-range study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education known as the Mainstream Amplification Resource Room Study (MARRS), improving classroom audio led to a 40 percent reduction in special education referrals.
"Teachers using amplification report improved student attention, fewer distractions, and less need to repeat instructions," the report said. The improved classroom audio levels also resulted in higher test scores for various subjects.
What are Common Classroom Audio Problems?
For every audio problem in a classroom—from elementary school to college—there is an audio solution. Here are some of the most common challenges to good classroom audio and the best way to solve them.
Problem: There is too much ambient and background noise in the classroom.
Solution: Simple room modifications. The best-case scenario is to address acoustical interference when a room is being designed, but that is not always an option.
A lot of ambient noise in classrooms comes from outside the room itself, such as street noise coming through a window or noise from the hallway seeping through the door. Properly sealing windows and installing heavier, more sound-proof doors are two easy fixes. Acoustical panels and soundproofing curtains that absorb ambient noise and also prevent sound in the classroom from bouncing off hard surfaces such as walls, desks, chairs, and whiteboards are also a simple and cost-effective solution.
Problem: Students say it's hard to hear in the back of the classroom.
Solution: Audio amplification systems. The larger the classroom, the harder it is for students sitting farther away from the teacher to hear. Audio amplification—in this case amplifying the teacher’s voice—can account for the distance.
The most basic amplification solution is a microphone—either static or moveable—that the teacher speaks into. For a more sophisticated solution, educational institutions might consider a dynamic soundfield system.
In a dynamic soundfield system the microphone used by the teacher that transmits sound to speakers placed evenly throughout the entire room, allowing sound to be delivered at the same, comfortable volume to students no matter where they are.
Problem: I teach online classes, and students need to have access to high-quality audio from my lectures. How do I ensure the students at home get the same experience as those in the classroom?
Solution: Integrated audio systems. In higher education especially, a teacher or professor could have as many students listening to a lecture at home on their computer as sitting in the classroom or auditorium and those remote students need the same level of audio quality that in-person students enjoy.
Solutions here include microphones connected to digital recording systems for clear, intelligible lecture capture; microphones installed throughout the room either on desk or in the ceiling, that capture student comments and questions; and, audio streaming software compatible with distance learning applications such as Skype, GoToMeeting and WebEx.
Students and Teachers Benefit From Improved Audio
Not only do students suffer from poor audio quality in classrooms, teachers do too.
Vocal strain and throat infections are a contributing factor to teacher sick days, but improved acoustics and sound amplification means teachers don’t have to raise their voices just to be heard.
Schools using classroom audio enhancements report a significant decrease in teacher absenteeism due to voice or throat problems. Audio enhancements that allow collaborative learning, which AVI Systems offers for educational institutions at every level, improve both teacher satisfaction and student outcomes.