Inavate + BenQ: Smart displays for blended learning

Hurrairah bin Sohail speaks with Jeffrey Liang about how the education sector can create ‘blended’ learning environments that deliver for both students and staff whether they are on-premise or joining from remote locations.

The importance of education is self-evident. So, when education is disrupted, it is a matter of grave concern. Jeffrey Liang, president of BenQ Asia Pacific, speaks about the challenges facing education and how the sector is evolving to ensure that students can continue to learn and grow.

The education sector has been heavily disrupted by Covid-19. The focus of schools is on ensuring that students can continue learning whether it be in-person or from remote locations without loss of progression. What has BenQ discovered in terms of the new norm of education?

These are definitely difficult times for the education sector as it battles the disruption that is caused by Covid-19. But one of the core pieces of feedback we are receiving from schools and education institutes is that face-to-face education is necessary. Schooling and education are not only about gaining knowledge, they also help develop your skills with your peers around you. Education helps the students build core skills of collaboration, interaction, leadership, critical thinking and problem solving which help them throughout their whole life.

With this is mind, the education sector is looking to make sure that learning environments are safe and secure for students to return to. Education end users are looking to make a return to learning spaces and schools safe with health-related concerns taking priority.

However, at the same time they are aware that safety must be guaranteed for students before any return can be possible and that they may have to operate with remote learning for some time more. This leads us to a push for ‘blended’ learning where both in-person students and remote students can be catered to with the help of technology that allows them to interact and collaborate and feel like they are participating in the same lesson experiencing the same teaching quality.

As you mentioned, in-person learning can only be resumed if the safety of students, staff and teachers can be guaranteed. Can BenQ’s solutions help educational institutes address the health concerns over in-person learning activities?

From back in 2016, BenQ has always been trying to invest in our interactive display technologies with a focus on health elements for teaching and learning, and our latest solutions have been designed, keeping in mind the needs and health concerns of school-going students and their parents. We’ve been developing features that put the health of the people in learning spaces at the core of our products and these features have just become even more vital considering the current global situation.

Based on studies and our observations, ‘germs’, ‘poor indoor air quality’ and ‘continuous exposure to screen blue lights and flickers causing digital eye strain and myopia’ were and still are the key health concerns in classrooms.

Of course, factors that spread disease and viruses are at the forefront of everybody’s minds at present. Our third generation of germ-resistant screens incorporate higher concentrations of nanoionic silver compounds and are cured together with the anti-glare coating and tempered glass, giving the screen longer lasting antibacteria properties than any conventional germ-resistant screen or spray on the market. Most importantly, our screens are certified by TÜV and SIAA that prove the efficacy of germresistance and non-toxicity. Also, poor in-door air quality and ventilation can cause cough, eye imitation, allergic reactions, asthma, headache and disease transmission, impacting student academic performance and learning efficiency.

With built-in Air Quality Sensors, it helps measure and display key environmental parameters in classrooms including temperature, humidity, PM 2.5, P10, CO2 and Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) concentration levels, allowing teachers to intervene with appropriate actions in real-time.

Switching to students that are accessing learning from remote locations, delivering quality education to them and keeping them engaged is also important. How can BenQ’s solutions ensure that the lives of teachers and remote students are made easier?

It all starts with schools and universities developing a comprehensive plan for remote learning that takes into account the needs of the remote students and the tools that will be required to enable a ‘blended’ learning approach. Technology has to be a key component of this plan. BenQ offers a range of future-proof display solutions for blended learning classrooms that address the needs of the teachers, in-person students and remote students.

In order to let the teacher ensure in-class and remote students’ feedback and reactions and have students interact with each other online, here we suggest schools to place an interactive flat panel with a webcam in the centre of the classroom as a main teaching tool, and a smart projector as a second display for the teacher to see real reactions from remote students. The teacher can share their teaching materials using their own videoconferencing software.

For smaller sized classrooms, a smart projector is a complete choice in itself. Our smart projector has built-in internet connectivity and web browser, enabling videoconferencing and wireless sharing of teaching material from their mobile device, tablet or notebook.

And of course, a by-product of learning from home or remote locations is increased screen time and exposure to blue light and flickers which can cause digital eye strain and myopia. In addition to PC, laptops can also be connected to an eye care monitor which brings more comfort to the learning experience. These features empower students with a tiredness-free screen that ensures that classes don’t take a toll on children’s eyesight.

We’ve seen the classroom and learning spaces really change over a short span of time. What directions are learning spaces going to further evolve in?

I think the biggest evolution of the classroom and learning spaces will see them shift from one display to two displays as the standard. Before Covid-19, we were already seeing a shift to the digital classroom. We were seeing display sizes increase. Three years ago, a 65-in display was considered big but now we are seeing 75-in or 80-in displays being common in classrooms and I expect the display sizes to continue increasing.

The increase in display sizes was being brought about as a response to the fact that students were presenting materials on screen as part of the ‘flipped classroom’ and there was an active push from governments to increase students’ accessibility to digital tools such as notebooks and laptops.

Today, Covid-19 has further accelerated the rate of digital transformation. Schools and universities not only have to meet the needs of students in the classroom, they also have to ensure the presence of remote students and I believe that the solution to this is a second display in learning spaces.

Whether it is two flat panels, two projectors, or a flat panel and a projector combination, I believe that this is now a requirement in the education sector. One display will not be good enough. In a two-display scenario a teacher can still maintain a screen for them to use and control while having another display for the students to access and present on. And of course, we at BenQ are happy to help schools and universities determine what is the best display solution for their needs.

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