November 17, 2021

Article
3 min

The Right Camera for Each Classroom

To optimize online and hyflex learning, colleges and universities must identify the hardware that will help them achieve their goals.

Jimmie Singleton

When I am designing a video solution for online and hyflex learning at a higher education organization, the IT and education professionals I’m working with often already have a specific product in mind. But frequently, the product they’re thinking of isn’t necessarily the best solution to support what the college or university is trying to accomplish in the classroom. 

In these cases, I always suggest that people flip their decision-making process: First, decide what they’re trying to accomplish. Then, seek the best technology tools to help them get there. 

Here are five use cases for which schools might deploy video, and a sample camera or system that will likely be a good fit.

Use Case: Professor Teaching from Home/Office

Number of people: 1-10

Tool: AVer VB130

Details: The AVer VB130 is a perfect plug-and-play tool for instructors who will be teaching from a home or office. The 4K video bar has a built-in ring light, and professors can mount it directly on their workstation. This solution is built for smaller rooms, so it may not be a great fit for some of the larger classrooms where there is more movement and greater distance between the professor and the camera. To get the highest-quality sound, the professor needs to be fairly close to the solution’s built-in microphone. But for use cases where instructors simply need a camera pointed at them, this solution generally represents a major step up from using a laptop alone.

Use Case: Small Seminar Room/Instructional Studio

Number of people: About 15

Tool: Poly Studio Premium USB Video Bar

Details: This solution is a good fit for rooms that are about 15 feet deep, such as the dedicated teaching studios colleges and universities are creating for online learning. In a typical use case, students are often still learning remotely, but the professor has more freedom to move about the room. For instance, there may be one or two flat-panel displays mounted on the front wall (along with the Poly Studio bar), and the instructor can use those screens to see and interact with students. The Poly solution’s auto-framing feature can track the professor as he or she moves about the room, perhaps writing on a whiteboard or interactive display. 

Use Case: Small HyFlex Learning Classroom

Number of people: About 25

Tool: Logitech Rally Plus 

Details: This is a bundled videoconferencing kit with a pan-tilt-zoom auto-framing camera, microphones and speakers. This type of solution can create a more authentic connection between students in the physical classroom and those learning from home. The PTZ camera can zoom in on whomever is speaking or whatever is being presented, leading to a more personalized and collaborative experience than a stationary camera.

Use Case: Small HyFlex Learning Classroom

Number of people: About 25

Tool: Logitech Rally Plus 

Details: This is a bundled videoconferencing kit with a pan-tilt-zoom auto-framing camera, microphones and speakers. This type of solution can create a more authentic connection between students in the physical classroom and those learning from home. The PTZ camera can zoom in on whomever is speaking or whatever is being presented, leading to a more personalized and collaborative experience than a stationary camera.

Use Case: Midsized Lecture Hall

Number of people: 30-50

Tool: Huddly L1 Camera

Details: When designing for larger spaces such as full-size classrooms and lecture halls, colleges and universities can often achieve an improved and more accessible user experience by purchasing cameras, speakers and microphones separately (rather than opting for an all-in-one solution). While the Huddly L1 is not a PTZ camera, PTZ might not actually be a necessary feature in some small or midsized lecture halls. The wide field of view and auto-framing feature on the Huddly camera will keep remote students engaged in a professor’s presentation and prevent online lessons from feeling stagnant.

Use Case: Midsized Lecture Hall

Number of people: 50-plus

Tool: Vaddio RoboSHOT

Details: This PTZ camera can program several pre-set views, allowing instructors to switch with the push of a button from, say, a shot of the entire front of the room to a close-up view of a specific whiteboard. The RoboSHOT camera can also spin 360 degrees, allowing it to zoom in on in-person students who are asking questions or otherwise participating in the class.

Ultimately, there are a variety of solutions that could be a great fit for some use cases, and IT and educational leaders will weigh numerous factors when making their decision, including considerations around cost and existing infrastructure. But the top priority should be finding a solution that helps to meet the specific needs of a given classroom and its users. Many universities and colleges are aware of the off-the-shelf solutions from well-known manufacturers, but those aren’t necessarily the right fit in every case.

Story by Jimmie Singleton, CDW•G Higher Ed AV Field Solution Architect, has been in the AV industry for seven-plus years, most recently as the manager of learning environments at the University of Southern California, where he oversaw all classroom technology support services. In this role, he worked to improve customer experience by helping nontechnical audiences understand highly technical needs. In his time in higher education, he was named a member of Commercial Integrator’s “40 Influencers Under 40” list, as well as a winner of the AV Awards “AV Service Team of the Year” award. He is a Certified Technology Specialist and holds a wide variety of AV and IT industry certifications.