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Simply Connected Halloween Edition: Spooky AV Stories

It’s the season for scaring, so what better time to share some spooky AV integration stories from the field. There’s no ghosts or ghouls involved, but if tangled cable runs, tight crawl spaces and bailing wire-secured projectors are your idea of a frightening time, look no further!


A Giant Spider’s Web or a Tangled Mess of Cables? Sometimes it’s Hard to Tell The Difference 

 It’s one of the most common spooky sights that AV professionals see out in the field – a gordian knot of cables that even a family of rats wouldn’t nest in (more on rat-related mishaps later).

Proper cable running and management are underrated parts of AV integration, so it’s easy to see why installers frequently run into hair-raising cable nightmares, like cables that start and end in places unseen. Or cables snaking like spaghetti, piled on the floor and without a single cable tie in sight. And that’s just the rack room. On the other end of the run, things can get even scarier, with cables punched through makeshift holes in the drywall or running along the floor in high traffic areas.

Most of the time, poor cable management is due to an inexperienced, rushed or just plain careless installer. If you’ve never done cable management before, it’s a lot harder than it looks. For experienced installers, though, there’s nothing spooky about arranging cables neatly.

How do they do it? By using a handful of tricks like the following:

  • Planning where the cables will be routed before connecting anything.
  • Color coding and labeling cables by function and destination.
  • Bundling like cables together and securing them with ties.
  • Running the cable out of the rack’s sides so technicians can access the hardware without cables getting in the way.
  • Using cable management accessories like cable combs and bars.

In this case, the treat that comes after the tricks is a beautifully organized rack room.

They May Not Be Haunted, But Older Buildings Can Still Make an Installer’s Heart Pound 

If you’ve ever wondered why AV integrators ask so many building-related questions before starting a project, there’s a good reason for that. Even if you’ve worked in the same office building for decades, you’ve probably never crawled around in the ceiling, under the floor or behind the walls. Sound creepy? Slinking around in dark, tight spaces is just part of the job for AV installers. Hope you’re not claustrophobic.

Why do AV professionals hang out in crawl spaces? Mostly to figure out where the cable is going to be run, which is why you’ll get a lot of questions about facility access during the project’s initial planning phases.

And it’s no surprise that these old, musty spaces sometimes harbor wild animals, which are typically not happy to have visitors. We’ve heard stories, including one where a rat – it’s always rats – jumped out at a technician inspecting some hardware racks. We’re guessing those racks hadn’t been inspected in some time, giving the rat a chance to find a warm, cozy spot – perfect for staging a sneak attack. When you’re surveying crypt-like networking rooms in old buildings, it’s not uncommon to run into the occasional rodent ambush.

Every now and then, though, it’s the building itself that ambushes the installer. We’ve seen, for example, an entire drop ceiling collapse on one of our installation teams. Unsurprisingly, it was in an old school. Tasked with doing more with less, it’s often the case that school districts need to keep their old facilities around until they’re practically haunted. At least it feels that way for some AV installers.

No rats in the ceiling, though, which was a plus.

Nothing Scares an Integrator More Than “Creative” Installation Methods

For many AV integrators, what frightens them the most is their own imagination. For example, imagine what could happen if a projector was suspended from the ceiling with nothing but bailing wire. What if it fell during a class or meeting? Now that would be scary, and potentially dangerous.

Or what if your business took apart its expensive video wall – we’re talking a 3×3 here – and tried to perform maintenance on it without any in-house AV expertise, voiding the warranty in the process?

Yes, it’s terrifying to think about, but stories like these demonstrate why partnering with a certified AV integrator is so important. If those organizations had a maintenance agreement in place, they could’ve avoided the kind of mistakes that make facility managers turn white with fright. That’s why reputable AV integrators prioritize long-term maintenance contracts for their clients – it’s no trick.

How Do AV Integrators Face Their Fears? With a Detailed Needs Analysis and Site Survey 

As you can see, AV installers run into the scariest stuff during the initial phases of integration. Prior installation mishaps, extremely outdated technology, structural challenges, the occasional rodent on attack – these usually emerge before any hardware has been installed.

That’s why experienced AV integrators spend time and effort on a thorough needs analysis meeting and site survey. If there are any potential obstacles the installation team needs to know about – like a disintegrating drop ceiling – they’re discovered during the project’s planning stages. It’s during this stage that the AV team will take note of each room’s layout, size, construction, and access points, including scary crawl spaces that no one wants to go into.

That is, no one but experienced AV integrators, as they are accustomed to dealing with the spooky side of technology installation.

Episode 11: The Value of Learning

Learning is the focus of education, but how we all learn can be very different, and that is not a bad thing. One of our favorite professional resources for this topic is Dr. Lance Ford, who has a lengthy history in education, specifically in finding technology solutions that are valuable to the classroom. In addition to being a teacher for about twenty-nine years, Dr. Ford also acts as a ZoomRoom Educator, in which he works with educators who are exploring the Zoom platform or need assistance in tying it into the classroom to help students learn.

More importantly, Dr. Ford is excited about the value of learning when it is done in a way that reaches students where they are and inspires them to grow.

The Value of Learning

The goal of learning is to learn something new and help other people with that knowledge to, in turn, enable them to achieve what they want to do. This is the foundational concept of education. However, there are some challenges that should be addressed to facilitate learning, specifically:

  • Impacting learners
  • Individualizing learning
  • Using flipped classrooms
  • Understanding that time is boundless for the knowledge transfer process

By exploring what each of these areas means and how they can impact the education process, it can be possible to empower both teachers and students to create an environment tailor-made for learning.

Impacting Learners

In standard classrooms, the following situation happens in some shape or format:

  • A bell rings, signaling the start of class (or for college classes, there is a certain day and time of the week for class)
  • Students come to sit in the class
  • The teacher begins sharing knowledge with them
  • The student takes notes on the knowledge
  • The student is able to regurgitate that knowledge back to the teacher via an assessment process
  • A student’s understanding of a subject or topic is strongly based on the results of that test or assessment

During the pandemic, learners were impacted differently. Limited remote teaching methods that are quickly employed during an emergency situation, such as moving to learning online, can make it hard to individualize the learning process. Students had multiple challenges to pandemic learning, including:

  • Various learning styles
  • Unique ways of engaging in content
  • Access to technology
  • Limited ability to see nonverbal signs if they did not have video capabilities

Yet, because of the experience educators and students had during pandemic-related remote learning, it has yielded more tools that can be used in combination with other methods to individualize learning so that every student can benefit, even when in the classroom. For example, video communications that took place during that time allowed teachers and students to make their lives more relatable to each other as they interacted, adding an important relationship component that enhanced the overall learning experience.

Ways to Individualize Learning for Students When They Are All Unique

Ford believes in starting with the desired outcome and the educator working their way back to the student’s individual level. When an educator programs a student’s interests (or lack thereof) to cross-pollinate with other students to share their perspectives on things, a genuine learning experience can occur. It allows students to relate to each other (even if they are in different places in their education) in a way that might not necessarily happen with their teacher.

As far as students being in different places, educators can enhance the educational experience by taking into account where learners are when they get to the classroom. If students are able to learn from each other through cross-pollination as well as learning from the educator, it provides additional avenues for students to learn from. These can vary from student to student, teacher to student, hands-on projects, or even asynchronous learning. Everyone can learn from each other in some fashion in this type of community.

It is important to remember not every student’s knowledge base may be the same in terms of what educational powers that be determined as a predefined cannon for acceptable outcomes and assessment. However, educators can take what a student knows, bring it into that canon, and then spin that diamond of knowledge to reflect on them where they are and scaffold that knowledge to where they need to go.

Enhancing Classroom Learning Time

While classroom learning time is an asset, there are ways to make that time count for more. Some of Ford’s favorites include flipped learning and personalized video lessons.

In a flipped learning scenario, it includes an educator teaching either at their whiteboard or computer, in addition to audio. These teachings can be recorded and offered to students at night before the next day’s lesson. This can have two positive effects:

  1. Deeper classroom discussions. Students will come to class ready to discuss ideas on a topic because they already have the basic knowledge from the video. This allows more creativity and interaction for students to learn from their peers and their different ideas. This honors the time a teacher and their students spend in the classroom together, with everyone weighing in and learning from each other instead of listening to a teacher simply disseminate information.
  2. Personalize learning. Even if the information is already available via the internet or another source, it can have a greater impact on a student when it is their own teacher presenting the information. Students are more apt to approach their teacher with questions if that teacher is the person they learned it from. This also enhances the student-teacher relationship.

Learning Should Be Muli-Faceted

Learning is no respecter of time and location. Learning is applied knowledge. In other words, learning is not confined to the classroom, five days a week during class. Instead, it can happen any time people go to apply knowledge and are struggling with it. They need to get from where they are now, with the information they do not know, to where they need to go.

Time can be boundless for the knowledge transfer process. This means educators should provide kids multiple options for when they learn and then meet them where they are as opposed to where they want them to be. This does not mean teachers should be available 24/7 to their students. What it does mean is that educators should not feel like a failure if they teach an 8 a.m. English class, and the kids are not ready to learn. However, it may require the educator thinking of alternative ways to get information to students outside the confines of the classroom so that time in class can be more lively and productive when the students arrive.

Kids need educators to reach them where they are. Everyone can learn, and everyone can have potential because it is never too late to do the right thing. It simply requires educators to figure out how to move forward in a way that better engages the student.

As educators look to engage students in new ways and have learning take new forms, technology in the classroom is key. Technology should not be restricted to remote instruction but used in a way that can make even classroom-based learning more effective.

Episode 10: Hooked on Innovation – Ed Tech for the Future

Particularly in recent years, education technology has become an integral part of learning for students. Although some campuses adopted modern technology during the height of the pandemic mainly to facilitate virtual or remote education, the result is that it has enabled most schools today to have access to technology for use inside the classroom as students return to in-person learning.

The Biggest Technology Struggle for Schools Returning to In-Person Education After Virtual Learning

The goal of incorporating technology in the classroom should be to help teachers better educate students to have a brighter future.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many schools were in a state of educational triage in which once they obtained funds, they bought modern technology devices and then put them in the hands of students for use at home to supplement virtual learning. Once that was achieved and virtual learning continued, students settled into a bit of a routine with this remote technology.

However, when schools experienced the end of virtual learning and students returned to the classroom, many schools shunned the technology once used for virtual learning because few were sure how to incorporate those methods into the in-person classroom experience.

In reality, technology that was once used solely for virtual learning can also be used as a blended learning tool to enhance a student’s education. However, as much of the nation transitions into a new normal amidst the COVID pandemic, it is becoming clearer that educators have not been provided with the instruction they need to be able to effectively incorporate this technology into the in-person classroom.

Technology is needed in our schools, and if it is not being used properly it can be a struggle for educators, which leads to frustration for teachers and missed learning opportunities for students.

What Technology Looks Like in Education Today

In a roundabout way, the pandemic became a champion of using technology in a positive way. It enabled the education industry to continue teaching children when it was not possible to do so in person.

When used the right way and with the right instruction, technology can be an amazingly effective supplemental learning tool for remote, mobile, hybrid, and in-person learning.

Classrooms today tend to fall in one of the below categories:

  • Repetitive technology-based classroom. These classrooms, whether it is due to lack of funds and/or knowledge of how to operate certain devices, tend to focus on repetitive learning via the same basic technology tools for students, such as online worksheets or learning games.
  • Flipped classroom. These classrooms were highly advocated for before the pandemic, but not every school had the means or desire to create this type of learning environment, which incorporates mobile devices into the in-person classroom experience. Those that did pre-pandemic were largely successful at switching to virtual learning. Those that were not able to provide a flipped classroom pre-pandemic may now be able to thanks to the accessibility of technology that was used for virtual learning.
  • Advanced classroom. These classrooms have increased access to creative experiences thanks to virtual reality platforms that allow them to experience learning in an entirely different way. As amazing as virtual reality is, this technology can be pricey and not within everyone’s school budget, and for that reason is not frequently used.

Essentially, educators are doing their best to balance normalcy with the constant forward motion of technology. It can be difficult to strike the right balance, especially if educators do not have the support they need in place, and it may look different from one campus to another.

Technological Trends in 2022

As an advocate for technology integration in the classroom, Carl Hooker has held a variety of roles including teacher and administrator during his more than twenty years in the education industry. This experience allows him a unique perspective on things he expects to continue to see in 2022, such as:

  • A new digital divide. While there is still some digital divide between students who have more access to technology than those who do not, the gap is growing somewhat smaller each year. There is still work to do in this area. In some ways, the new digital divide is between educators who do know how to effectively use modern technology in the classroom and those that do not. This divide can potentially be made smaller if more educators are equipped with the tools and knowledge needed for success in this area.
  • Increased reach. In some schools, taking a foreign language requires them to be bussed over to another school to learn something that could be done via modern technology that does not require a bus ride to another campus. As educators become equipped with ways to harness technology to their benefit, there will likely be an increase in reach and opportunities for students.
  • Forward-thinking. While not all schools are ready to jump right in and invest in new technology, forward thinking schools are at the bare minimum paying attention to where it is headed in the education industry. This attention to detail will allow them to more wisely and readily invest when the time comes.

Despite all of the above trends for 2022, Hooker argues there is still much to be said for valuing the relationship between a teacher and student that encourages inspiration and creativity. Technology is incredibly valuable, but equally if not more so is the personal connection a student and teacher can develop through learning.

More from Carl Hooker

Carl Hooker has used his personal experience in the education field to pen a book called, Ready, Set, FAIL! In the book, Hooker encourages the reader to recognize that individually we all have failures that can shape us for the better. He focuses on encouraging teachers to do thoughtful risk-taking in a supportive environment, to navigate thoughtful risk-taking in an unsupportive environment, and to realize that creativity is often born out of obstacles.

Hooker does address technology in the classroom, but it is centered more on the principles of taking thoughtful risks and being more resilient from failure. Although the book is geared specifically toward educators, many across other industries have found the concept of seeing failure as progress if something is learned from it useful.

Technology should have a place at the education table, but thoughtful and effective implementation is required for it to better serve the teacher, student, and overall learning experience, in whatever form that takes.

Considerations for Purchasing Technology

One of the biggest challenges facing corporate technology consumers today is how to acquire technology in the most economically sound way possible. While a school, corporation, or government entity will want to upgrade some of their current technology but not have enough capital or approved capital to make the exorbitant purchase, it still may be possible if they pay monthly for the use of these devices via a service agreement with a reputable AV integrator. This could even allow the client to use more advanced technology than they would have been able to afford otherwise.

Most clients tend to focus on the technology itself, but the better thing is to strategize is how to obtain modern devices you need at a price point and predictability you and the finance department can afford. It is not as hard as you might think

Financial Considerations for Purchasing Technology

Before a consumer signs on the dotted line for any type of technology agreement, there are some thoughts to keep in mind and talk over with all levels of your organization including the financial department. Some specific points of consideration for these parties include:

  • What means do you plan to use to acquire new technology?
  • Are you willing or able to finance it?
  • Are you willing or able to pay cash?
  • What type of return do you want for this particular expense?
  • Will the technology you plan to invest in quickly become obsolete?

An organization or corporation’s answers to these questions can help guide them in exactly what kind of technology they want and by what means they should purchase it.

Expenditures 101

Clients that are on track to upgrade or buy new technology generally follow one of two tracks when it comes to expenditures:

  1. OpEx: Operating Expenditure
  2. CapEx: Capital Expenditure

Operating expenditures are basically monthly expenses that will appear on the profit and loss sheet. Because this expenditure is spread out over an extended time period at a predictable cost and is lower risk, it is generally much more appealing to financers. Examples of an operating expenditure might be a subscription that a company has with a provider such as Microsoft, Amazon, or Apple. It allows them to use the service on an as needed basis.

Capital expenditures tend to be less popular with a company’s finance leaders because it requires a quite large up-front investment. For this reason, this type of expenditure is difficult for both public and private enterprises to manage. Essentially, this method allows a user to acquire a fixed asset by paying cash or borrowed money on the front end in one large sum. The other part of a capital expenditure that can deter financial approval is the amount of groundwork it can take from coming up with the capital to getting budgetary approval to finding a funding source.

Typically, an operating expenditure will have more success for most corporations, schools, and even government entities.

Making Your Money Work for You When Technology Changes and Improves Every Day

The truth is that all technology is quickly becoming obsolete. This is generally true of every piece of technology that affects our lives. Why? Because technology is constantly improving at a rate so fast that the modern technology of today may be as good as obsolete in only a few years’ time.

For example, a study found that a ninety-eight-inch LED display depreciates significantly over a three-year time period. At the end of that time, the device will have likely depreciated by ninety-six percent.  This is a staggering statistic that indicates that at the end of three years, that display will only have retained four percent of its initial value, a whopping four hundred dollars.

All this to say that for a client today wanting modern technology, it simply makes more sense to use audio visual as a service so that in a few years’ time, they can reevaluate the tools they are using and potentially do a reasonable upgrade for about the same monthly payment as before.

The Benefits of Audio Visual as a Service

Audio Visual as a Service, more commonly referred to as AVaaS, has been around for a little while but is becoming somewhat of a new trend. Its popularity is due in large part to the fact that it allows a company to get the total tech solution they are hoping for and to pay for it gradually over time.

Some of the primary benefits of using Audio Visual as a Service are:

  • Establishes better use of cash flow. In other words, by doing this as an operating expense, it can save the client from spending a large amount of cash up-front. Instead, the client can hang onto their cash and invest in something else that could earn a significant return for their business because it is not recommended to fully invest in a rapidly depreciating asset with a capital expenditure. It is unnecessary to own the technology. Over a period of three years a client can use the technology and at the end choose to refresh it, potentially keeping it close to the same monthly payment they were already paying. Using AVaaS can keep a company from depleting their cash and therefore allow them to have more on hand for other unexpected expenses.
  • Preserves credit better. Most businesses do have a credit line so that if there is a purchase they need cash for, they can use it. However, this may not be the best way to finance a purchase if it can be avoided. AVaaS allows a client to preserve their credit while still letting the client access technology on an affordable monthly basis.
  • Manages risk more efficiently. One of the best ways to invest in technology is to pay for equipment as you are simultaneously generating a profit. This provides a more balanced return than paying with a huge lump sum of cash up front and not getting as good of a return in the future.
  • Streamlines budgeting. Corporate financial officers and departments like stable budgets and predictable spending because it reduces risk. By using AVaaS, it can help create a stable IT budget with predictable monthly spending over three years. And because it involves less risk, the operating expenditure usually presents less red tape to work through for approval.
  • Helps combat inflation. Today the world is seeing a period of high inflation in which many items are experiencing a huge price increase. The Consumer Price Index is higher than it has been in almost three decades, and it is affecting everyone’s pocketbooks. With no sign of inflation letting up in the foreseeable future, AVaaS can allow clients a hedge against inflation with predictable monthly payments.

It is possible to have technology and it be affordable in the same way it is for you have your cake and eat it too. Plan ahead, be smart and make your investment work for you.

Episode 8: Components of an AV System

Audiovisual systems are stealing the spotlight in today’s emerging technology, making the million-dollar question, “What are the major components of an AV system?” Many posts or podcasts on this topic often focus on how an audiovisual system should and can function on a day-to-day basis for various clients’ needs, but this post is geared to focus more on the AV system itself, the various components it encompasses, and their importance.

Seemless AV Integration: Real-World Examples

Before we jump into breaking down the major components of an AV system, it can be helpful to think back to a memorable past audiovisual experience. One of the most common and profound AV experiences for people can be found just inside the doors of the local movie theater.

Take a few minutes to remember the last movie you saw in the theater with an emphasis on the sights and sounds:

  • Was the lighting in the room customized so that the screen came to life in a way that made you forget you were sitting in a chair watching a movie?
  • Was the picture so large and crystal clear that you felt as though you were stepping directly into the scene?
  • Did you feel the vibration enter your body when the sounds system cued up before the movie started?
  • Did the speaker placement allow you to hear things directionally just as an actor in the movie would?

Your experience at the theater was brought to you holistically by the way the major elements of an audiovisual system worked together.

The Top 7 Major Components of an AV System

What makes an audiovisual system successful is the technology that is used and how it works to create optimum performance. Some of the major components of an AV system include:

  1. Audio
  2. Microphones
  3. Speakers
  4. Amplifiers
  5. Video
  6. Lighting
  7. Displays and Projectors

By putting all of the above elements together it allows for a user to have more control over an audiovisual system and customize it to fit the specific needs of a particular space. This is what makes the technology a true success.

Putting the Audio in AV Systems

Audio is one of the primary stars of the show along with video and lighting when it comes to audiovisual systems.

Consider what a classroom AV system would look like without audio. A teacher sharing pictures or videos of the inside of the Sistine Chapel will have breathtaking architectural images with no explanation or background. It would be quite difficult if not impossible for a student to know what the images are of, where they were taken, or why they are being asked to learn about them without audio context.

Now picture watching a movie without sound. There is no build up or crescendo of music during the emotional parts and no recognizable silence before a suspenseful moment comes to a climax.

Without audio or even quality audio, it can greatly hinder the intended experience.


Modern-day microphones are used to professionally capture quality sound in a room, but where they are located and the sound they are designed to pick up have the capacity to completely change an experience.

Three things a microphone should be able to do to enhance an audiovisual system’s performance are:

  1. Establish the desired pattern. This terminology references a microphone’s capability to capture a sound directionally. For example, a cardioid mic is designed to pick up sounds that come from nearby, however, an omnidirectional microphone is intended to register sound from multiple directions.
  2. Manage ambient sounds. A microphone should only capture the desired sound without the noise of ambient sounds. It can be configured to pick up only the main speaker’s voice instead of their voice and a side conversation happening elsewhere in the room, along with the hum of a projector.
  3. Pick up a speaker on the move. In some settings, the speaker or presenter will not be stationary and will instead be moving throughout a room. Beamforming microphones use array technology to help track a speaker so their voice is loud and clear regardless of where they move inside the room.


An AV system’s speakers are tasked with delivering the sound a microphone captures. The placement of the speakers can play a huge role in the way an audiovisual system works. It is vital that this technology be placed or mounted in a way that it delivers the best audio quality without interfering with a space’s function.


While speakers generally do the work of delivering the sound, an amplifier can be a critical partner for speakers—particularly in larger spaces. The role of the amplifier is to boost a small electrical signal while still retaining a sound’s quality. Without an amplifier, sound from a speaker may still be loud but will tend to lose its quality and have listeners commenting that the audio sounds fuzzy.

Putting the Video in Audiovisual

The video component of an audiovisual system is every bit as essential as audio.

Picture a convention in which a speaker has pictures of the stages of cell division on a display that the viewer cannot see. When the presenter says, “Please note that in Photo A the cell is marked with a red circle.” Without video, the listener can only try to assume what the referenced picture looks like.

An audiovisual presentation, large or small, must have quality video to accompany quality audio for the audience to obtain the full intended experience.


Although video is essential for an AV system, it is possible to have video that projects mere shadows rather than clearly defined shapes and details. To protect against this problem, the lighting is key. When a video is being recorded, the lighting in the space must translate well to a display.

For example, consider the uptick in cameras and recording devices that also feature additional lighting since the pandemic began. People found that although they had enough light to see and work in their rooms or home offices, the video appeared to be shadowy. Technology that offered additional lighting was soon in high demand so that viewers could see a presenter more clearly.

Video Displays

With the video well captured, the focus turns to the best way to display it in larger spaces such as a classroom or boardroom. Without a display there can be no viewing, so it is critical to select the right type of video display for others to see content on.

Displays can range from projectors to interactive displays to video walls. While there can be a place for each of these types of displays, the key is to choose the medium that works best for the particular use of the intended space.

The Connection Between Legacy AV and Modern AV Technology

Technology is constantly changing and developing to become better, smarter, and more effective at the tasks it is designed to do.

Just ten years ago, audiovisual components sometimes referred to as legacy technology might have included iPods, DVD players, VCRs, and even bulky document cameras. Today some of these have become almost obsolete with newer and more efficient components such as Bluetooth, laptops, tablets, and smartphones taking center stage.

This dichotomy of old and new sets the stage for a conversation about legacy technology and its place in today’s audiovisual systems. Some key points to consider are:

  • What components are available in a current AV system and what are the clients’ opinions about them?
  • Should the new AV system be built on the foundation of existing legacy technology in combination with more modern technology?
  • What is the best way to future-proof an AV system keeping in mind the ever-changing landscape of technology?

With most technology estimated to last three to five years before newer technology comes out that may require a change, it is important to consider what legacy components make sense to keep (if any) and what modern components to make the change to. Upgrading an AV system might mean keeping some AV components already in place, or it might not. It all comes down to the client’s mission and vision for a space and how they intend to use it, both now and in the future.

The world of audiovisual is full of possibilities and with the right components in place, it has the capacity to create memorable one-of-a-kind experiences. Work with a reputable AV integrator to get the best results for the space, regardless of its use.

Episode 7: Integrating with an AV Integrator

When a company decides they are ready to take action in either establishing or upgrading technology, or even improving the existing infrastructure of an audiovisual system, it can make for a much smoother process if they understand the steps an AV integrator goes through, the questions they ask, and why they do what they do.

To assist companies that are planning to partner with an AV integrator, we have taken some of the most common scenarios and questions that come up on an almost daily basis and are sharing them now with you. This behind the scenes view of the process from the integrator’s point of view can be invaluable in helping clients understand more about what to expect in their own audiovisual journey with a provider.

The Top 2 Things to Know Before You Contact an AV Integrator

It may seem like reaching out to a professional AV integrator is just the tip of iceberg, and in many ways it is, but it does require two key pieces of information before you make contact with them:

  1. Shared vision – The term essentially means that the vision you communicate to the integrator should be shared among your company’s key leadership. If the IT lead calls and communicates a vision that is different from a chief operating officer’s which is also different from an executive’s, chances are that the final technology proposal will not be up to snuff for at least one or more individuals. Develop your company’s shared technology vision before you initiate contact with an AV integrator.
  2. Budget – Know your budget for the project. This does not mean that the entire budget will need to be used, but it does give integrators a starting point for knowing if certain technology is automatically off the table due to budget concerns.

With these two pieces of information established, it is time to contact a reputable AV integrator about getting your space connected.

What to Expect in Your Consultation with an AV Integrator

Typically, when a client wants to get their office boardroom, conference room, or classroom connected, they contact an AV integrator via phone or email. This is a way for the client to introduce themselves and learn more about the individual they will be working with. That introductory phone call should only be a gateway to an in-person meeting to discuss the vision for the project.

While a phone call, pictures of the space, or even a Zoom call can provide basic information, it is not conducive to collecting specific details of a space such as wall measurements and a three hundred sixty-degree view of the room. A phone or email conversation should not be a substitute for physically being in the space to get a feel for the dimensions and makeup of a room.

Face to face communication is always preferable when possible because it allows the project leader and the integrator to collaborate together. It allows the give and take between both parties in terms of a client identifying what they think might be needed and an integrator knowing if it is doable on the client’s budget.

Once an in-person meeting is set up between the integrator and client, the real work can begin and generally follows these steps:

  • Conducting a needs analysis – This includes establishing what technology the client wants to incorporate and for what purposes, as this usually dictates which products will be needed specifically to help them achieve their goals.
  • Noting the room’s physical makeup and dimensions – An AV integrator will likely bring laser tape measurers and other tools to help them measure the dimensions of the walls of the room, which will help with product placement. Even the height of the ceiling is key as it will dictate what kind of product can be mounted and how it will need to be done. Integrators will also write down the physical characteristics of the space such as if there is sheetrock, concrete, cinderblock, etc.
  • Engaging in a question-and-answer session – There can be hundreds of different ways to get a boardroom or conference room connected, so in an effort to be respectful of all parties’ time, expect the integrator to ask a myriad of questions. These questions are not asked to pile on possible solutions and strategically increase the cost of a project, but rather these questions will help them determine the functionality of a room as it relates to the client’s intended goals.
  • Identifying possible red flags – By taking a tour of the space in person, it can allow the integrator to identify red flags for design engineers. This could be the type of ceiling or flooring a room has and how that will impact running cable. It may be that the spot a client wants a display screen may not work because it would be too close to a fire alarm to be ADA compliant.
  • Determining building access – Some audiovisual system installs can require a great deal of equipment and products that will need to be transported inside the building. For this reason, it is critical to determine if the installation crew will be able to park right at the building or will have to transport materials from several blocks away. Another consideration is if the space is not located on the first floor of a building and will require the use of an elevator.
  • Waste management – It is important to note if the facility has the capability to dispose of project-related waste such as packing materials, Styrofoam, and cardboard boxes. If not, it may require the provider to repack all the waste and haul it away to dispose of it properly.

Each of these considerations plays a significant role in determining the design, management, and labor involved in a project.

How An Integrator Puts Together the Project Proposal

With the client’s shared vision and an in-person evaluation of the space itself, the next step is for the integrator to put together a project proposal. Sometimes an integrator will sit down with their notes and draft them into a more cohesive format to create a better visual before turning them over to the design engineer.

The primary elements a design engineer needs to evaluate before creating a technology solution for a client includes:

  • Integrator’s notes
  • Pictures of the site
  • Measurements of the space
  • Client’s vision
  • Review of potential red flags in the space that could impact its design

Having these elements at their fingertips can help them more clearly understand what the parameters of the design project are. This step can take some time since the design is being created from scratch and customized for the client.

Understanding the Project Proposal

The last step of a project proposal is presenting it to the client. It is highly recommended that the client and integrator go over the proposal together to go over any questions or concerns before the client makes a final decision about moving forward with the project.

After a proposal is it is common for clients to have one of the following responses:

  • Question what some of the line items on the budget mean
  • Love the design engineer’s outlay but decide they cannot afford to do that much all at once
  • Choose to delay the project altogether
  • Go ahead with the project as drawn up in the proposal

A client is entitled to all of these reactions, but there are some precautions that are worth mentioning. Sticker shock is real—but so are the amazing results of the technology it can afford a client. When sticker shock becomes a problem for the client the instinct can be to either phase in technology, do value engineering, or go with another provider, but there are a few problems with each:

  1. Phasing in technology – Although a great deal of thought and planning goes into the original budget, it is possible for a client to decide it is just not plausible to do all at once. However, phasing in technology means the client sees the value in the design and would rather leave out one function that they can delay for future purchase and have the rest of the technology go live now. Of these three, this is generally the smartest option because it does not sacrifice quality in the long run.
  2. Doing value engineering – Some people will see the design engineer’s plans and decide they simply cannot do that much and will ask the integrator to go back to the drawing board to come up with a solution that is less pricey but will still accomplish most but not all of the functionality the client needs. This can be delicate territory as there may come a point where value engineering takes away from the integrity of the project, in which case an integrator may walk away because they could not in good faith recommend a system like that to a client.
  3. Going with another provider – Many AV integrators find that clients who chose to walk away from the project to go with another provider eventually return because the lower cost project design they went with did not have the functionality or quality they needed. Unfortunately, the client then has twice the expenses as they paid for a project they are not happy with and now have to pay a different integrator to fix it.

Again, it is essential that the client meet with the integrator to review the proposal in detail so that there is no confusion. It may even take a follow up visit or two before the client feels comfortable about interpreting what they are reading. A reputable integrator should be happy to work with the client until they have a clear understanding of the document.

A Final Word About Budgeting

It may not come as a surprise that one of the biggest hurdles in putting together a project proposal is defining the budget.

Although clients generally shy away from this forward question, most integrators do not like asking it either. The misconception is that a hard budget number is needed so the integrator can sell a client enough product so that the entire amount is used. The truth for most integrators trying to determine the best products for the functionality of a space is that the budget can give them a jumping off point. If a $60,000 display panel would be perfect for functionality but a $30,000 budget cannot accommodate that, the integrator knows they have to rule out even seemingly perfect solutions that are more expensive due to budget restrictions.

Sales representatives at audiovisual companies have access to thousands of quality products which range widely in price. This enables them to choose the best panels, speakers, amps or other equipment that meet functionality, quality, and budget restrictions for a client.

As a business seeking to enhance internal and external communication, it is vital they know what technology they want and why they want it, and then be willing to partner with a reputable AV integrator to achieve success.

Episode 6: AV in a Hybrid Workspace

Due to the recent pandemic, more people and corporations than ever are a part of the hybrid environment. This dynamic allows people to connect, collaborate, and communicate regardless of their location or geography and feel like they are in the same room with others. With the right hardware and software in place from an AV integrator, it enables employees to join a video call from a boardroom, the home office, a coffee shop, or wherever work takes them.

While the benefits of a hybrid work environment are more readily apparent, how to achieve success in this area can be confusing for those unfamiliar with newer technology that lends itself to this specific type of situation. A professional AV integrator can be integral in setting up and installing the right elements to yield optimal success.

Frequently Asked Questions About Establishing a Successful Hybrid Environment

Across much of the nation and even the world, people are working at least part-time in a hybrid environment. Although many have been doing this for the past year or so, technology continues to evolve and is finding ways to enhance and clarify audiovisual communication.

To help you better navigate the hybrid environment, we are sharing some of the most frequently asked questions about this type of setup:

  • When working from home, what are some key elements needed to enhance video conferencing capabilities?
  • Is a laptop or webcam feasible for a video conference for two or more people?
  • Is it possible to get rid of background noise such as a dog barking on a video conference call?
  • Why can I not hear others on Zoom calls sometimes or the sound quality is poor?
  • What is needed to host a successful hybrid networking event?
  • Are there portable video conferencing solutions?
  • What are the pros and cons of different platforms?

Key Elements Needed to Enhance Video Conferencing Capabilities When Working from Home 

The corporate sector is seeing an increasing number of employees either working from home fulltime or limiting their time in the office to only a few days a week. With this change comes the need for a good home office set up for video conferencing which will require a device that can handle a camera, microphone, and speaker all in one. The camera can adjust the video when needed due to lighting changes to yield a clearer picture.

Audio is the most important element of collaboration on a video conferencing call because without it, there is limited communication. For this reason, a microphone or microphone array will be essential in capturing good audio quality. A camera and audio solution should be a USB peripheral which allows user-friendly plug and play.

Laptop Webcams and Video Conferencing for Two or More People 

It is not recommended to use laptop webcams for video conferencing for two or more people. Fitting two people in the view of a built-in laptop camera requires people to be literally squished side by side and does not allow for social distancing.

In addition to personal space issues, it can also create lighting challenges. A laptop’s onboard camera may also not have the capability to work with dynamic light settings. If the light in front of the person speaking is not as bright as the light behind them it can create shadows, making visual clarity difficult.

Getting Rid of Background Noise on a Video Conference Call

With so many of us working away from the office in some capacity, there are many enterprise and consumer level options that offer noise cancellation. For example, Polycom provides a sound package in which algorithms can identify noises that are repetitive, like a pen tapping or papers rustling, and then eliminates them from the audio feed to make the audio clearer.

Platforms such as Zoom and Teams already have an auto cancellation built-in which helps with feedback and echoing, but the cancellation of background noise is somewhat limited and usually requires the aid of a digital signal processing system such as Biamp.

Acoustic fencing is an excellent tool for setting the parameters of a specific area you want the microphone to cover. If in a space flanked by open areas busy with chatter, it is possible to set the fence of the microphone to capture only the immediate area of the speaker and not pick up any additional chatter from outlying areas. This component can also be useful in the boardroom of a busy office that keeps the door open. Acoustic fencing can capture the sounds within the boardroom minus what is happening outside the doorway.

Issues with Poor Sound Quality on Video Conferencing Platforms

There are multiple reasons sound quality issues with some platforms can occur. If there are issues with a computer’s camera or microphone, it can be hardware related. If people are joining the call from a location that does not have enough bandwidth, it may impact the quality of audio and video.

Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams feature analytical tools to aid IT departments with a log that may point to where the error is occurring, be it software, hardware, or bandwidth errors. Although possible, it is typically rare for platforms such as these to have an issue with poor sound quality that is on their side.

Hosting a Successful Hybrid Networking Event

The key to a successful hybrid networking event is making sure the right things can be seen and heard by participants. It is recommended to have a camera that captures presenters and people in the front of the room as well as another camera to capture mainly the participants in the room.

When it comes to a camera for a presenter, it should have audio tracking capabilities so it can track a presenter that is moving around by their voice and still keep them in focus. Cameras for participants should both be able to focus on a participant that is speaking as well as pan out to the larger audience.

Audio for the event should be able to capture presenters as well as participants when warranted. This can be accomplished via a wireless handheld microphone used by the audience or ceiling microphones located throughout the space.

Having the right audio package and determining what is suitable for your particular space is where the help from an AV integrator is key. They can purchase the right kind of package, install it, and calibrate it in a way that makes it optimal for your hybrid networking event.

Portable Video Conferencing Solutions

There are a number of video conferencing options that do not require a big investment, such as the Poly Studio X Series. This video conferencing bar features a camera, speakers, and microphone array all integrated together which can be connected to a display. Set up is relatively quick.

To make this option portable so it can be used in different rooms of a business or corporation, it can simply be loaded onto a mobile cart. The cart will have the video conferencing bar and the display and will only require an outlet to plug into. It can be set up to connect wirelessly or via a network.

This flexibility is essential for businesses that do not have the budget to put video conferencing technology in every room. An AV integrator can set it up to connect to multiple platforms to increase its versatility.


The Pros and Cons of Different Platforms as They Relate to Video Conferencing

Platforms will vary and generally include some tradeoffs, such as if it is strong in quality, it may be more prone to failure, or vice versa.

Microsoft Teams is popular with many companies because it is a sunk cost in their business. If they already have a larger enterprise investment with Microsoft, they are essentially already paying for Teams, making it an obvious solution.

Zoom is also popular with businesses because it is reliable, cost-effective, and allows video as a service. It can be an operational expense instead of a capital expense.

Webex may be good for people invested specifically in Cisco hardware, and there are many other options available to consumers as well.

Each of these platforms will have minimum hardware requirements, but these are generally closer to the status quo than they are the unusual. Still, the requirements must be met for the platform to function properly on the computer. In addition, it is imperative to have proper bandwidth and a reliable connection to facilitate use.

With the number of people working in a hybrid environment and the ever-growing number of video conferencing platforms, it is best to choose what works best for your setup specifically. A professional AV integrator can help your company find the right solution for the budget and tailor it to the company’s needs to ensure visual and audio communication is clear and productive.

Episode 5: The Intelligent Camera

Intelligent Cameras

Cameras have long since been a part of the boardroom and classroom spaces in our community, but not in the same capacity as today’s intelligent cameras. Innovation has happened at almost a light-speed pace, changing the technology for cameras drastically from what it was as little as ten years ago. The goal for using an intelligent camera in these spaces today is to create a more authentic experience for both the person in the room with the camera, as well as the person on the other end.

What Is an Intelligent Camera System?

On the most basic level, the goal of an intelligent camera is to make the end user’s experience both as easy and user-friendly as possible. These cameras do not require remote controls or touch panels equipped with presets in order to pan, tilt, or zoom. Instead, the hardware and software work together to focus and zoom in on speakers without requiring any action from the speaker or participants.

There is no one intelligent camera, but rather multiple lines of intelligent cameras that provide a variety of bells and whistles for users. For those in the audiovisual industry, the “intelligent” part of a camera system can be attributed to many different areas, from everything to the hardware itself to the optics and how they respond to production roles written inside the software of the camera, to how all that ties back to multiple frequently used applications such as Zoom or Teams, for example.

These applications typically have different ways they prefer to handle what is being presented from the camera and how output goes to other devices such as a mobile phone, laptop, conference room, etc. Although the hardware can be an integral part of a camera’s interaction with an application, the software often plays a larger role because every manufacturer customizes it to make it their own.

Why Intelligent Camera Usage Is on the Rise

Cameras from ten years ago simply provided a visual with some audio capabilities. They often required a remote control or a touch panel programmed with presets to shift the camera’s focus. Even though these abilities improved the experience from what it was years before that, they were not entirely user-friendly. Most users utilized only one or two presets and the rest went unused, even though the technology was available. If the other presets were used, it still did not enable the camera to focus on the active speaker unless they were in a predesignated spot.

Today, intelligent cameras greatly enhance the user experience with better focus and tracking. It may help to think of how they work in terms of a television production such as a football game. Viewers can see almost every aspect of the game because there are multiple cameras that all have different points of view. Together this can make the user almost feel like they are present at the game itself.

Intelligent cameras work much the same way because they are built with the capability to track a speaker, follow an active user, and know if it needs to get to a certain one. Not only does this enhance the viewer experience, it also allows the user to focus on the message they are communicating for the work at hand without having to perform a specific action with a remote to trigger a response from the camera.

What Makes a Camera “Intelligent”

When it comes to what makes a camera “intelligent,” it is largely based on both the hardware and the software as the microphone and camera ingest audio and image data and relay it to the software.

For example, during a meeting, if a camera picks up audio input from the left side of the room and in addition the optics show a presenter has moved to the left side of the room, the software intelligently interacts with the hardware to move the camera’s focus to where the presenter is without having to be redirected manually or via remote.

How fast the hardware relays information to the software is somewhat customizable by the manufacturer. It is generally based on the user, the application, and the space it is being used in. This helps control the speed at which a camera moves and transitions, which can eliminate jerky actions. It is also instrumental in allowing the camera to focus on where a speaker ends up versus their transition from one point to another.

Buying the Right Intelligent Camera

Finding the Right Camera for Your Space

When choosing the right camera for your space, there are several considerations to keep in mind, including:

  • the size of the space relative to the application at hand
  • the degree of view a camera provides
  • how a camera is networked with the infrastructure
  • focus on the useable, interactive space in a room rather than its dimensions
  • know the main application it will be used for

If you like the capabilities and features of a smaller camera that is not quite right for your space in terms of optics or zoom, there is likely another more suitable option in the product line that will work for the space in question.

Just as you need a hammer and not a screwdriver to drive in a nail, you need an intelligent camera that caters to the right application. These details are incredibly important.  It is rare that one camera will fit every possible situation, but there may be a way to cascade unintelligent USB-based devices into a space so that they can communicate with one another with the means of ingesting audio and video data to share it with the host machine and then convey it to the person on the other end.

Important Considerations for Buying an Intelligent Camera

One of the best pieces of advice most industry professionals would offer is to do your homework and experience a camera firsthand before making any purchase decisions. This can mean taking tips like these into careful consideration:

  • Go beyond the spec sheet
  • Experience the technology in person instead of relying on a checklist
  • Be curious and ask questions
  • Do not purchase the first model you see
  • Think about the experience you plan to create with the camera in the classroom or boardroom
  • If two products are strikingly similar, go with the one you feel is best

It is important to note that spec sheets and checklists describe a product on paper, but it is not a substitute for seeing and experiencing the real thing in person.  It may be helpful to work closely with an AV integrator who has years of experience with many different types of cameras. They can set up test runs with different types of equipment so the buyer can more accurately compare experiences.

At the end of the day, the ultimate goal of having an intelligent camera is to make the experience better for everyone involved. If you have questions about using an intelligent camera in your place of work, consider reaching out to a reputable AV integrator today.

Episode 4 The Hybrid Classroom Part 2

With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, schools were forced to pivot almost overnight to adapt to virtual and hybrid learning. However, the technology lessons learned during this formative time are now helping schools adapt to hybrid education going forward to the 2021-2022 year and beyond. What might not have originally been on a district’s radar for three years down the road is now something they are trying to proactively plan for as far as five to ten years in the future, and they will be better for it.

Strategies Used for Starting the 2021-2022 School Year

With the pandemic still surging in parts of the United States, the beginning of the new school year was initially met with a degree of trepidation. Educators were wondering what would happen if a surge occurred in their area and how it would affect their teaching and students’ learning experiences.

Most Texas schools opted to either go in person or virtual with not much, if any, in between. This provided some level of confidence because going all virtual or all in person generally presented far less technological challenges than dealing with a hybrid classroom on such short notice. Some of the benefits of this all or nothing strategy include:

  • Teachers will not have to alter the classroom environment to switch between virtual and in person. In hybrid environments, it is sometimes necessary to shift around equipment to make the classroom setup feasible for cameras.
  • Educators can teach from home or the classroom without too much difficulty, which provides more continuity.
  • No subsets of students will be absent from class on a regular basis. They are there every day or are one hundred percent virtual, which eliminates the need for teachers to keep up with which way a student is choosing to learn on a given week or month.

What schools were starting the year with was the knowledge that they could handle switching to all virtual if need be because many had already done that on at least a temporary basis at some time during the previous year and a half? Now, most have more and better equipment to facilitate that change.

Pandemic Technology Challenges are Shaping the Future Classroom

While technology has always been evolving inside the classroom, the pandemic forced that to happen at a much faster rate than most school districts were prepared for. The pivots they had to make almost overnight are not a process they want to repeat, so the goal then became using pandemic technology challenges to shape the classroom five to ten years into the future.

In a perfect world where there is plenty of time to adapt and build technology for a teaching program that works for in-person, hybrid, and virtual classrooms, many schools and IT directors said they would hope to incorporate the following:

  • Have every classroom be identical. This can be essential for both teachers and students that float from classroom to classroom and should also cut down on unique challenges for incorporating virtual students into the setting. Regardless of their learning location, students would essentially be having the same experience no matter which classroom their teacher would be teaching in.
  • Use strategic camera placement. Having two cameras in every classroom would be ideal, one that focuses on the classroom environment and one that focuses on the instructor.
  • Utilize speakers. The speakers would be able to play media in person and remotely. This would allow a teacher who created a lesson on her laptop to play it online and in the classroom at the same time by simply docking the laptop and greenlighting the program.
  • Install microphones. Mics should be able to pick up the instructor first and foremost, but also pick up students’ questions to the instructor. In addition, it would be key for remote students to be heard in the classroom with the mic system.
  • Put a virtual student display at the back of the classroom. If a monitor or video wall could be set up in the back of the classroom behind students, it would allow for virtual students to be seen by the teacher but not as easily by their classmates which can cut down on distractions.

The Quest for Educators to Become More Comfortable with Technology

When the pandemic hit, some teachers were scrambling to learn the technology they would need to implement virtual learning. Almost two years later, many of these same individuals have mastered the required technology, but moving forward the landscape is likely to change again necessitating teachers to adapt to even newer systems and ideas. Pandemic or not, as a whole most Texas schools say professional development on the subject of technology should be required annually.

The two main filters a school can benefit from using when it comes to choosing what types of technology to adopt into their classrooms are:

  1. Is it transparent for the teacher so they can use it without interrupting their teaching style?
  2. Is it transparent for the student so they can use it the same way the teacher does, but without it altering the information they receive?

Essentially, transparent technology refers to the focus being on the subject, experience, and learning taking place in the classroom and not focusing on the hardware and equipment itself.

While educators need to stay abreast of evolving technology, it must still be user-friendly for both teachers and students who do not know technology as well as those who do. There is also a push to have potential substitutes understand the technology being used so they are not afraid to step in and take over due to a lack of experience or training.

Pandemic Lessons Learned by Schools That Will Now Be Used Annually Regardless of Pandemic Status

Although some lessons were necessitated by the pandemic itself, they have yielded concepts that schools now expect to apply annually, regardless of if there is a pandemic present or not. Some of these generally include:

  • Being multimedia friendly. Many classrooms have become multimedia classrooms and will continue to move forward in that same fashion for years to come.
  • Utilizing the cloud. Schools that put their student information system one hundred percent in the cloud usually find it to be more accessible to students. Platforms such as Zoom, Google, or Teams can be used to communicate.
  • Offering classroom tools via the cloud. Schools are becoming more committed in finding the right tools that are widely available and making them cloud available. One example could be using a YouTube video to pause periodically and quiz students on the information they are learning.
  • Getting creative with solutions. The pandemic taught schools to be creative and expand their resources. For example, during the pandemic one public school district turned itself into a Wi-Fi hotspot so that students anywhere within the district could access the network. This type of creativity is likely to be needed on perhaps an even different scale going forward, but most schools will already have some experience in thinking outside of the proverbial box.

One of the smartest things a school district can do as they prepare for this school year and even five years to a decade down the road is to establish a partnership with a reputable audio-visual solutions company. Reputable AV integrators can ensure your campuses are well outfitted and ready, both now and in the future.

Episode 3 The Hybrid Classroom

As students begin to return to school this year, many parents and students still have questions about whether it will be in a virtual classroom, hybrid classroom, or in person. Families have been significantly impacted by the pandemic since early 2020. Since that time COVID-19 has continuously changed the way teachers and students handle challenges in teaching and learning across various platforms.

By the end of September 2021, many Texas schools who opened up with in person learning opportunities quickly found that a spike in the transmission of coronavirus meant they could be switching gears again only weeks into the fall semester. Because younger children aged eleven or younger were not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and were concerned about being in person, many schools hastily opened virtual academies for this particular demographic. This too brought challenges in making the system work and securing the staff to man the program.

As the pandemic began, school districts, teachers, and students were all asked to “pivot” and change the way they approached learning as Americans stayed at home. Now, as a new school year begins in 2021, the word of this school year seems to be flexible, as schools navigate the hybrid classroom model with increasing frequency.

With the world of education largely incorporating hybrid classroom models this year, we thought it would be helpful to talk to schools to see what has worked and what has not since the pandemic forced changes in the way teachers educate and students learn. Our hope is that the lessons learned by a private San Antonio school can help others as they look to the rest of the school year and beyond.

How COVID Forced a Hybrid Classroom

Most schools in Texas started the March break of 2020 with one eye on the coronavirus situation, but never expecting it would impact them the way it did. Many in the education industry refer to that as the year spring break never ended because most students never returned to the classroom before the school year concluded.

However, in the interim between March and the last day of school, educators felt compelled to do something to facilitate some level of education and routine for children. A private school in San Antonio pulled together a team of professionals to find a way to take education virtual. This was a challenge for them for several reasons:

  1. At this time in educational history, cameras were not a normal part of the classroom model.
  2. Educators did not have experience with cameras and preferred not to use them unless necessary.
  3. Some subjects such as coding or science labs were near impossible to teach virtually because it required years of planning, and in this instance, they had none.

Meeting the Need for Professional Development in Technology


As virtual learning became the status quo during the spring semester of 2020, the main obstacle became getting educators comfortable with new hardware, software, and platforms. Specifically, the school did the following:

  • Got teachers comfortable with various learning platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. For roughly three full days, teachers did professional development training to better understand how to handle issues such as logging into a Zoom session or teaching over a voice line instead of in the classroom.
  • Change the hardware. Essentially teachers’ laptops became their classroom, but the school found that most of the laptops the teachers had were subpar for accommodating virtual learning, primarily because the machines’ cameras and microphones were lacking. Although the school quickly placed orders for new Microsoft Surface machines, it would take time to get them. In the meantime, educators did they best they could to find webcam deals and minimize background noise that often occurred when communicating through the laptop.
  • Obtain the right software. With professional development and new hardware also came the need to obtain software that would enhance virtual and eventually hybrid classrooms.

The Fall Semester of 2021 and the Introduction of the Hybrid Classroom

When the next school year began, the school had finally received the new laptops, which made a positive impact because educators found them to be faster, more robust, and have better camera capabilities. However, those camera capabilities were limited to the laptops themselves.

With this in mind, the school began to look at camera solutions that would offer hybrid classroom capabilities for virtual and in person students.  In other words, how do you show the same content to two people in two different places?  The camera’s role was essential because it allowed teachers to be seen and heard effectively for various classroom scenarios. In the end, the school found a relatively inexpensive camera that teachers could operate and even connect to their existing interactive boards to use for screen sharing for both virtual and in person students.

The Learning Curve for the Hybrid Classroom

The school found an unexpected downside to the way they were using cameras in the hybrid classroom. On average, they found that when the camera allowed virtual students and in-person students to see each other, distractions became an issue. In response, the school took those cameras out of the classroom and instead decided to try a different tactic.

The new goal for camera usage was to have remote students only interact with the teacher as opposed to the teacher and the in-person students. From that point forward remote students interacted with the teacher on the laptop only and could still hear what was happening in the classroom without having a visual of the other students. In person students could also hear the remote students, but not see them.  The new arrangement significantly cut down on camera-related distractions.

Another challenge of the hybrid classroom became controlling the classroom. When in an in person setting, the teacher is better able to control distractions and moderate conversation. In a virtual setting, some of that control is relinquished. For example, the school found that some virtual learning students would take a screenshot of themselves on the learning platform and then post it so that the teacher would think they were still present when in reality they left the room to go eat lunch or play video games. Unfortunately, there were a number of ways for students learning remotely to defeat the system that simply weren’t part of an in-person classroom environment.

Bandwidth also became an issue due to the sheer number of teachers and students making connections. The number of connections for one classroom was far more than what the school would have seen during a typical school year, and when that number was multiplied by sixty teachers and five hundred kids, it overloaded the system at times. It required some improvement to be truly effective.

These are some of the challenges schools faced for the hybrid classroom with remote and hybrid learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the bad comes the good. Even challenges have a silver lining, and working with an experienced AV integrator ensures the ideal solution will be found.