Alex Parlour, Corporate and Education Marcomms Manager, Sony Professional Solutions Europe

Technology has fundamentally transformed the education environment, allowing learning experiences to span far beyond the confines of the traditional campus. From smart touch screens and interactive tablets, to lecture capture solutions, a plethora of new tools have made the digital classroom a reality.

Smart technologies are now part of the fabric of modern education environments, helping to drive new learning and teaching opportunities while opening up greater flexibility, accessibility and productivity across educational institutions.

Advancements in technology, particularly video, have enabled more remote learning and interactive content, becoming an integral tool for many pedagogical strategies. Recent research undertaken by Sony found that over 87%* of teachers, professors and lecturers use video content as part of their lectures or seminars, while 94% of educators recognise the power of technology in improving student engagement levels.

With higher education now facing a steady stream of Gen-Z 'digital natives', educators are increasingly looking towards new tools and techniques that will satisfy growing student expectations for technology-enabled learning and optimise engagement.

Technology supercharged by AI

As technology develops, tools such as Artificial Intelligence are primed to meet the new demands of Generation Z students. Overall, the UK has seen rapid growth in AI, with the first half of 2019 matching the entirety of 2018 in terms of investment. Meanwhile, European spending on AI is set to increase by almost 50% in just one year.

In the education sector AI adoption may still be in its infancy, but its potential to enhance teaching and streamline operations is well recognised.

Innovative tools like cloud-compatible video platforms and lecture capture solutions have already made a dramatic impact when it comes to giving students remote and on-demand access to learning materials, interactive content and resources. This technology is supercharged by AI, which promises to streamline time-consuming tasks, empower teachers to more easily create interactive content and digitise important learning materials.

New wave of interactivity and engagement

Video technology itself already goes beyond simply recording lectures: it allows educators to add live polling and quizzes to lessons, while new search functionalities help to encourage better engagement and deeper learning after the class has ended.

Not only does AI play a key role in the future-proofing of video tools, it stands to untap a new wave of interactivity and engagement from learners.

Virtual tutors can be automatically connected to students, allowing them to answer and contribute to discussions in real-time. Handwriting-extraction AI can digitise handwritten notes or diagrams on a whiteboard and display it in front of the speaker, eliminating the need for students to decipher a professor's notes and making them instantly accessible for future reference.

Meanwhile, cameras with auto-tracking capabilities follow a teacher's movement around a stage, allowing them to naturally present without being restricted by an arbitrary camera frame. Movement adds another dimension to presenting, helping students - whether they are physically present in the lecture hall or attending remotely - remain engaged. New AI-powered technology can even extract the presenter and overlay them onto any background, without the need for a dedicated green-screen or specialist training. This means professional-quality e-learning materials can be created from recorded lectures with minimal time and resources.

Putting the focus back into teaching

Technology, though, doesn't only impact activities in the lecture hall.

A shocking 50% of educator's time is burdened with administrative tasks; AI technology puts the focus back into teaching by automating costly, time-intensive back-office activities.

Empowering teachers to concentrate on delivering quality teaching puts them back in the driver's seat, enabling them to experiment with more interactive and engaging teaching approaches, such as active learning, and dedicate more of their time to doing what they love most - developing the next generation.

In a post-digital era, competition between universities has never been greater, student expectations never higher and lecturers are having to juggle more responsibilities than ever before. Educational institutions need to be forward-thinking in finding ways to stay ahead of the pack, boost the learning environment and satisfy the future needs of learners, teachers and stakeholders. Integrated and networked technology solutions that enhance the pedagogical approach and support an institution's vision for teaching can be vital in improving the quality of teaching.

The AI applications available to educators today expand upon current technologies and will be as fundamental for the future generation as video technology and multimedia content has been for recent cohorts. Investing in AI now can set the foundations for success in an increasingly technology-enabled world.

Alex Parlour, Corporate and Education Marcomms Manager, Sony Professional Solutions Europe

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