With the rise of active learning in higher education, AV groups have been tasked with designing, installing and managing these unique and complex digital media systems. Unlike traditional classrooms, where you may see a few projectors, a single control interface, and a few inputs for a laptop or document camera, active learning environments may have dozens of input and destinations. There have been three trains of thought on how to approach this issue:
Hardware: The “throw a bunch of hardware at the problem” approach has been deployed in many active learning environments. This configuration can include a large 16×16 or 32×32 matrixed switcher that functions as the nexus for the faculty and student-generated content. These systems generally work well, but deploying such a system can be expensive ($80,000 plus expensive), complex enough to need a specialized programmer and installer (or an external AV integrator), and may be prone to hardware or cabling failures, especially if the hardware is moved around the room as the classroom layout changes. (Examples: Extron and Crestron hardware installs)
Hybrid: Hybrid solutions use a combination of specialized hardware (usually proprietary) and software to build the active learning environment. These systems have a more turnkey approach but may lack customization and the ability to scale. Hybrid rooms are usually less expensive vs. true hardware solutions, but you are locked into specialized and usually expensive hardware that can’t be repurposed if needed. (Examples: Sony Vision Exchange, Google Jamboard, Cisco Webex Board)
Software: Software-based solutions are available, but have generally trailed behind the hardware and hybrid solutions in terms of their availability. Hardware is still required for a “software first” solution, but it’s usually in the form of computers attached to large commodity monitors. Proprietary hardware isn’t necessary, so this keeps costs down on that front.
T1V’s ThinkHub falls squarely in the software variety as it doesn’t require any specialized hardware. It’s difficult to articulate what ThinkHub is, but the best way to describe it is as a canvas where content (videos, PDFs, PowerPoint, etc.) can be dynamically loaded alongside wired and wireless sources (computers, phones, document cameras, microscopes, etc.), and it does this unique integration seamlessly. If that was all that ThinkHub did, I’d be impressed… but where the magic happens is with the ThinkHub’s ability to dynamically share content in multiple directions (from the faculty to the students and vice versa). Also, while a faculty member can use the ThinkHub’s touch interface, she or he can also control the canvas with a wireless tablet device, freeing them from “always being at the front of the class.”
ThinkHub is packed with useful annotation tools, has the ability to save and recall sessions (ideal if you made in-depth presentations multiple times a day), and, it can integrate with Zoom, WebEx, Bluejeans and Skype for Business.
Overall, we were impressed with the device. T1V has offered to make their showroom in Charlotte available should any group on campus be interested in testing the platform further.