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The Implications of Active Learning in the Higher Education Market

Education February 3, 2020

Throughout his career, Brad Sousa, CTO at AVI Systems, has been finding the best ways to implement new AV technologies to enhance how people do their work. In this five-part series, “AV Trends and Insights,” (thanks Bose Professional for sponsoring these posts), Brad shares thoughts on three big trends changing how the higher ed market uses AV technologies.

“The way instruction is delivered today is vastly different than 20, 10, even five years ago. It’s all based on how people learn,” says Sousa. “In addition, in the higher ed market, educators and administrators are under a great deal of pressure to apply what is taught to outcomes and how graduates perform when they enter the workplace. Lastly, there are dramatic changes in how universities and colleges recruit new students – with a focus on life-long learning – which impacts the technologies they use.”


This blog series examines these three topics in detail, beginning with how higher ed has leveraged AV innovations to enhance the effectiveness of active learning.

Making Active Learning a Reality

In the past decade, instruction has moved away from the traditional approach – a professor lecturing students – to active learning. Active learning is a form of learning in which teachers strive to engage with and involve students in the learning process more directly than in other methods. 

Students prepare for each class by watching videos or doing an Internet-based activity – allowing for the majority of class time to be spent on student-to-student interaction. The focus is no longer on transferring information, but applying it to real world situations. It’s no longer professor to student, but student to student – directed and facilitated by a professor.

How to Jump Start Modern Learning Environments at Universities 

  • Culture is reinforced by staying consistent. An active learning approach fosters a stronger platform for learning, benefiting both students and instructors. Stay with it to create a culture around active learning in the classroom.

  • Set educational goals first. Identify core learning targets and decide what practices will best assist students in reaching those goals. Examples include creating activities with different purposes like cooperative learning and critical-thinking motivators. 

  • Design a classroom that's fit for modern learning. Consider what technology will work best in the available space. Software solutions can give students tools to participate throughout the class and provide real-time feedback. Hardware solutions can significantly enhance an active learning space.

  • Provide the right training resources and opportunities for instructors. Give instructors opportunities to discuss and share strategies for implementing ALC strategies. Faculty need time to adopt strategies that work for specific content.

Educators and school administrators continue to debate the nuances of active learning, but when they recognize the sheer abundance of information and access to knowledge – on the internet and in the palm of every student’s hand – it boils down to helping students apply the right information. Today’s students are required to be more independent learners and the expectation that the learning experience is highly interactive also gets more emphasis.

"Students today must be prepared for the work world waiting for them when they graduate and educators implementing active learning methods need support from their institutions to select the best learning tools and ensure their ease of use for teachers and IT technicians," says Sousa. "Smart classroom solutions smooth the path to collaborative active learning environments. With the adoption of classroom technologies, educators can help students along the learning curve and make that educational experience more effective and useful to them in the workforce."

Technology has evolved so education becomes easier to consume and becomes more natural for educators and students alike. To learn more about AVI Systems' solutions for higher education, please visit

The Ins and Outs of AV for Active Learning

Part of active learning includes changing room configurations – facing desks and chairs toward each other so students can easily engage and collaborate, adding collaboration tools such as touch screens and interactive displays.

These changes also impact room acoustics and affect how video, images and other visuals are shared. Educators must be able to move around the room. They can’t be tethered to a wired microphone at a podium.

In some instances, multiple classrooms and locations are connected via audio and video feeds, prompting even more interaction and complex technical environments.

An active learning instructive delivery model needs to be supported by a software control system that allows individual instructors to interact with students as well as the technology without having to think about it. It sounds like a major shift, but most students expect this style of learning and faculty need to quickly adapt in order to be effective in the classroom. However, the trick is not overloading professors with technology.

While it sounds like a very fine line to walk, Sousa explains that today’s technology software and hardware is intuitive and can be easily learned and implemented.

Step one is to connect with your on-campus IT services team. The technology must be configured so students and educators want to adopt and use it.

These classroom experiences may appear chaotic at first glance, so instructors need to know how to gate the learning without worrying about the technology. This can be done by explaining when it's time for group interaction and when it's time to focus attention on the instructor.

“When colleges and universities consider active learning, the discussion should start with identifying what you want to achieve from an experience and outcomes perspective,” says Sousa. “Don’t start with the specs and technology."

"Once you identify what the ideal learning experience should look like, then engage with an AV systems designer and integrator to design and deploy the right technologies that will help educators and students reach those learning objectives.”

In our next “AV Trends and Insights” post, we’ll address how public and private partnerships impact colleges and universities and how it impacts higher education and the AV tools they use.


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