As part of its mission to prepare students to create the future, Michigan Technological University (MTU) recently outfitted a lecture hall and a library multi-purpose space with ClearOne BMA 360 Beamforming Microphone Array Ceiling Tiles that provide wall-to-wall microphone coverage and ensure ultra-clear collaborative capabilities.
According to David Chard, the school’s director of media technology services, the workspaces that utilize ClearOne technologies promote socialization and engagement with instruction materials while teaching proficiency with modern communications tools and providing major benefits for distance learners.
“Digital connectivity and communications is central to virtually every discipline we teach at MTU today, and our students both expect and deserve class-leading tools that optimize efficiency and improve educational experiences,” Chard explained. “The ClearOne BMA 360 ceiling tile microphones now being used in the DOW 642 lecture hall and the library’s East Reading Room immediately transformed how each space could be used by enabling clear, crisp audio pickup of any voice in any seat through the units’ intelligent Voice Lift capabilities.”
ClearOne’s BMA 360 ceiling tile microphone
Each room is used for a variety of purposes from instruction to meetings to remote collaborations. For instance, the university often invites virtual guest speakers and educators to participate in classroom and student life activities, and in the past they were mostly one-way presentations because there was no easy, effective way to give voice to individuals across a large crowd of attendees. With the innovative Voice Lift capability of the BMA 360, both rooms now offer every attendee the chance to be heard distinctly without the need to pass a microphone around or reposition themselves within the room.
This even extends to people inside the room, allowing the microphone pickup to be played back in real-time, so students or participants on the other side of the room can clearly hear every word. The fact that it can be hard to hear what someone is saying 50 feet away is an underappreciated issue that the BMA 360 solves without requiring any behavior changes from participants.
The new microphones have also made using the spaces much simpler, so most meetings no longer require having a student tech associate assist with setup or operations. This is a critical improvement, as one of the university’s goals is to encourage technological proficiency, and that can only be achieved when technology is easy to use and functions consistently and reliably. Even at a tech-focused learning institution, bad experiences with devices or components can turn people off and reduce the long-term effectiveness of the technology.
“We only install technologies that provide reliable experiences for users, and after years of success with various ClearOne products, we know these solutions are both easy to use and deliver industry-leading capabilities and performance,” Chard added. “During semesters impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, we implemented a host of ClearOne’s Chat 170 speakerphones in various smaller rooms, so both our students and faculty are aware of the brand’s status and usability.”
The impact of Covid-19 on remote learners
In fact, Chard noted that the university community recorded and viewed more than 225,000 hours of instruction during Covid-impacted years, which is used by remote learners and in cases of classroom closures. There are major remote learning advantages when using high-quality microphones and camera systems, including greater ability to actively engage remote students in classroom conversations and lessons. For post-grads and students involved in internships or off-campus responsibilities, they improvements are significant and immediate.
After seeing the dramatic success of the DOW 642 lecture hall installation, the library’s tech manager David Holden saw how the BMA 360 could transform the East Reading Room into an easy-to-use multi-purpose space.
“The East Reading Room is one of the campus’s largest reserved spaces, offering up to 5,000 square feet for meetings, events, social activities and presentations or collaborations with remote participants,” Holden said. “As staff and student expectations have evolved, the technologies in the East Reading Room had fallen behind and were failing to provide the flexibility and standards found in other spaces. After seeing the results of the three BMA 360s in the lecture hall, we saw how we could empower students in this multi-purpose space to capture, record and present as dynamically as possible.”
Whether it’s a campus life event inviting speakers to talk about local athletes who’ve joined opposing teams or an in-class remote presentation from a field expert, the upgraded technology offers major benefits for every type of collaborative opportunity. The university is already considering subsequent BMA 360 installations in other classrooms and campus spaces with a focus on ensuring experiential learning whereby students directly benefit from hands-on access to technologies they are likely to also use in their professional careers.
“Michigan Technological University’s installations present a true case study of what can be accomplished when institutions leverage ClearOne’s class-leading technologies and devices to support collaboration and communication in any size space,” said ClearOne Chair and CEO Zee Hakimoglu. “It’s our hope that colleges, universities, corporations and businesses of all needs recognize the importance and value of reliable, helpful technologies that improve outcomes and support better utilization of space.”
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