Education
4 min read

The $1k classroom upgrade

Simone Hjorth
October 31st, 2018

Every school IT admin knows the struggle of finding the tech solutions they need at an affordable price. That’s why the “$1k classroom upgrade” is a smart idea. We break down the essentials

Pricing is the big issue on every school IT admin’s lips. They have the knowledge of what tech solutions they need but also have to convince of their value and cost.

These concerns are matched with the rise of active learning classrooms (student-centered, technology-rich learning environments). This is a relatively new movement within Higher Education that’s slowly but surely transforming the way students learn and teachers teach. But it hasn’t always been easy finding the right, high-end technologies that live up to the standards of active learning classrooms at a sustainable price.

Steven Fudally, Chief Information Officer at Lake Superior College, came up with the “$1k classroom upgrade” in answer to this challenge – easy to use, high-tech tools at cost-effective prices that will turn classrooms into active learning spaces.

In just one month, Lake Superior College managed to roll out Airtame in 90 classrooms. They found that Airtame provides the kind of essential and dedicated education solution that they had been searching for – and at an affordable cost.

The bare minimum of an active learning space

It was a concept to challenge my team to research and identify modern technology at cost-effective prices for producing a collaborative and flexible academic environment.

Steven Fudally, Chief Information Officer at Lake Superior College

Steven Fudally came up with the “$1k classroom upgrade” because technology is finally at a point where it’s possible to find a smart solution that isn’t outdated immediately and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Finding the right tools takes a lot of research, and that’s why Fudally put a lot of effort into finding exactly the right match.

Simply put, educational institutions need an environment and set of tools that allow them to teach effectively. Teaching is challenging, tech should be simple. The tools and tech should be easy to use by everyone and cater to all sorts of room and a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment.

For Lake Superior College, the original assessment was to find a replacement cycle of 7-10 years. They thought this was too slow to keep the academic setting competitive. So ideally, Lake Superior College would establish an academic setting with a 3-year replacement strategy, and in order to obtain a shorter replacement strategy, they realized they would have to decrease the cost of the classroom and improve wireless utilization – without jeopardizing quality.

Flexible, collaborative, cost-effective, financially sustainable, BYOD-friendly… That’s a lot of demands, but the fact is that those are the bare minimum requirements most Higher Ed institutions are faced with.

Luckily, educational environments are at the benefit of working with committed local resellers, who are in turn committed to getting the very best prices for mass tech deployment. The ongoing relationship a procurement or IT admin has with a well-educated AV reseller, who knows which solution would be perfect for the school’s specific use case, makes it a bit easier to find the kinds of cost-effective, modern technology solutions that will last for a long time.

The right technology = better learning

At Lake Superior College, about 80 percent of all rooms were in analog mode before they came up with the $1k classroom upgrade. Choosing what and where to upgrade wasn’t very straightforward for Lake Superior College, Fudally and his team focused on upgrading the rooms where the majority of students would benefit from a quick turnover.

A $1k classroom upgrade was impossible to obtain, Fudally found, if it had to include all the right cables, adapters, and controls for all teachers and students. Because a collaborative learning environment should factor in the students too and whatever device they are able to bring.

The hardwired cabled connections to support all would not only be a physical hassle to set up and maintain, it would be an added expense too. That’s why they settled on a wireless streaming solution.

We wanted to produce an environment where the system adheres to the environment rather than people adhering to the system.

Steven Fudally

Wireless streaming transforms teaching

Unfortunately, many of the wireless streaming solutions on the market were unreliable, causing lots of manual intervention, increased help desk support, and not fulfilling the BYOD demand.

It wasn’t until Lake Superior College found Airtame that they believed they had found the ideal solution. At a sustainable cost, Airtame provides the modern, easy to use solution they had been looking for.

Setting up Airtame was actually so easy for Lake Superior College that the entire training occurred in less than a week for approximately 250 faculty. They were able to implement a “train the trainer” solution, which meant that in no time they had champions offering to help training other faculty.

Faculty and students can bring in their own computing device and present from a platform they are comfortable with. This now eliminates the awkwardness of finding files, plugging in cables, and running devices they are unfamiliar with.

Steven Fudally

The problem that many educational institutions face is not the ability to find such modern technology solutions that fit their needs; it’s the cost that comes with it. With technologies like Airtame, classrooms can be instantly transformed into active learning spaces – and for a fraction of the cost of other solutions.

Key factors to consider when looking for tech gear

Flexible, collaborative tools for active learning are not impossible to find, and not all are priced too high to meet educational institutions’ budgets. But finding exactly the right ones require a lot of dedication, research, and trusted resellers.

From our partnerships and feedback, we’ve come up with a few key points that educators and IT admins should consider when establishing tight AV budgets and rollouts for active learning:

  • Outline your cost
  • Factor in the student cost (not just that of the teachers)
  • Think about your AV life cycle
  • Consult teachers’/students’ boards (better than an IT admin simply assuming new tech is good for a classroom)
  • Focus energy and cost where you can see the quickest and largest impact (this should also help with the budgeting of a wider rollout)

Read more about Lake Superior College, and discover how to rollout Airtame for your educational institution.

Simone Hjorth
My job is to put together words in a delightful, entertaining, and sometimes moving way. 1 part techno enthusiast, 2 parts cat lover, 3 parts creative writer. Too many parts?