Fifty-five years ago this month UNICOL began providing stands to support 35mm carousel slide projectors in schools across the UK. So began the audiovisual (AV) industry and the introduction of projected images to enhance the learning experience.  Many years later and with the terms eLearning and Edtech driving modern thinking you would imagine the classroom of today would look very different. However, in general the teacher still stands at the front of a room full of students and the blackboard has been replaced with a whiteboard or TV screen. Obviously, the curriculum has changed and the ability to have immediate information from across the globe has enriched learning through collaboration and sharing.

Has the revolution happened or about to happen?

It is estimated that the global eLearning market is worth £120 billion and could double in size over the next decade but will it help or hinder? Who should benefit? The winners should be both students and teachers but inevitably new technology brings an increase in workload and with the average UK teacher spending 48 to 52 hours a week, with less than half that time spent on teaching, the added burden doesn’t whet the appetite!

One advance that could benefit both students and teachers is the introduction of learning platforms using augmented reality (AR) and computer vision (CV), the field of artificial intelligence that trains what is seen by a camera lens to understand the world it sees. This technology has the power to vastly enhance the learning experience by enabling users to interact with real live objects through, for instance, their smartphone. Hook this up to audio and the phone can talk you through an object it is pointing at with images of its history and the way it works. Whilst this technology is young it is being developed quickly and the upside for teachers is that once the training spike has been overcome, the workload could diminish. This form of self-teaching is much more beneficial as students learn directly from source through their own actions. The largest impact on a global scale would be to interact with the 750 million people who cannot read, telling them what it is they see.

How can an engineering company adept at metal origami help?
The UNICOL motto is ‘Supporting You’ and from the first stand to the latest lectern, the Education sector has been supported with AV mounting solutions. Every way you would want to mount a screen, projector or whiteboard is catered for including lecterns, teaching aid desks and collaboration tables. There is a huge range of standard products to choose from and a dedicated special products division will engage with customers to design and build custom items to suit a particular need.  In recent years UNICOL has noticed an extra dimension creep into the decision making goals of higher education, especially Universities, when buying AV equipment. For many institutions style and branding is now as important as the functionality of the equipment being specified, college colours adorn lecterns and illuminated logos shine out through a dimmed lecture theatre proclaiming the establishment. All of this is catered for in the custom built items that UNICOL produces.

Many of the custom prototype designs progress into standard equipment but with an element of bespoke options such as screen make & model, PC, switchgear, connectivity devices, visualiser and video conference (VC) codec & camera. It is through these devices that the advancements in software, mentioned above, come to life for both the student and teacher. For example, let us assume that a teacher will stand in front of a group of students with a screen to interact with. The environment where this takes place does not have to be a classroom, it could be in a corridor, atrium or just a ‘space’. The constraining factors are an electricity supply for the screen and the mobility of the screen support. The UNICOL Nest-Star trolley is a complete plug-and-play large format audiovisual teaching assistant on wheels that can be deployed quickly and neatly stowed when not in use. It can turn an empty space into an effective eLearning environment as and when required.

Collaboration is another area where UNICOL provides institutions with the ability to specify their choice of screens, VC equipment and connectivity. The Rhobus Huddle is a collaborative table with single or multi-screens. The Principal Lectern provides lecturers with a central desk facility to control AV lecture content, screen or projector video sources, audio and lighting levels and more. Both of these units are powered up & down and can be branded.

The UNICOL product list is vast and comprehensive and all manufactured in the UK. Wherever the latest developments in Education lead us the passion remains to provide safe, adaptable and dependable mounting solutions ‘Supporting You’.