Microsoft Surface Hub 2S: The solution your lecturers need

For lecturers and universities around the country, 2020 came as something of a shock to the system, requiring fast and agile innovation. It’s been a learning curve for all of us, but by and large education providers responded to the situation with the creativity and determination that was required to safeguard their students’ education. In-person lessons became remote meetings, seminars became webinars and the face of learning quickly changed. We learned to adapt.

But as students and teachers steadily make their way back to the seminar rooms and lecture theatres, the challenges that IT and network managers face are changing. How do we support socially distanced lectures? How do we connect remote and in-person learners? How do we enable resilient learning in a way that lets us adapt to whatever the future brings?

In this blog, we take a look into the new challenges facing today’s universities and consider the role that the new Microsoft Surface Hub 2S can play in helping lecturers address them.

The future is hybrid
When the national lockdown was implemented, the acute challenge for IT and network managers was to enable learning and lessons to be delivered remotely. Software like

Microsoft Teams played a big part in this, allowing lectures and seminars to take place from the comfort of people’s homes.

As the lockdown is gradually eased, students and their lecturers are making their way back to the lecture theatre, but we’re still many months away from a full-scale return to normal. Social distancing guidelines make it impossible to accommodate everyone, and not everybody is comfortable with coming back to campus at this stage. For now, flexibility is the new objective for the rest of 2020 and into 2021.

To achieve this flexible situation, a hybrid remote learning environment is required, one that flexes to allow students and teachers to connect and learn at their best whether they’re on campus or joining from home. Ideally, this should be done in a way which can adapt to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic over the coming months. The current scenario raises several key challenges, principally in creating an inclusive experience for both groups of learners.

To provide an inclusive environment, your technology needs to work harder, accommodating both groups and smoothing the boundary between remote and in-person participants:

  • Students and lecturers should be able to clearly hear and see one another, whether they’re sitting at the back of the lecture hall or joining remotely
  • Notes made on the screen or presentation should be clearly visible to both in-person and remote participants
  • Any lesson recording and/or transcript should clearly represent everything that lecturers and students say

These are just a few of the challenges that university network managers are now facing. Also vitally, the solution must be a sustainable in the long-term. Going remote earlier in 2020 was a short-term solution to an immediate problem. Now, the vital challenge is to turn that into an arrangement that lets students learn effectively over a long period of time – whether they’re doing so from home or in the lecture theatre. So how do we achieve this?

The answer lies in technology
How do you make the hardware in classrooms and lecture theatres communicate with the videoconferencing software through which remote learners are joining? For most universities, their existing setup wasn’t designed to accommodate remote learning. But luckily, with Microsoft Teams and the new Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, this is easier than you might think.

For education providers, Teams has grown in popularity over the course of this year, due to its ability to bring people together no matter their location. The fact that it integrates seamlessly with Microsoft 365, and offers easy and efficient governance for IT managers, is just the cherry on the cake. However, there are still gaps when it comes to hardware.

The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S fills in these crucial gaps and creates the hybrid environment that institutions of higher learning are looking for. 

A hub for hybrid learning
The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S is the flagship product of the Surface family. It’s not a coincidence that it’s called the hub – the device is designed to bring people together. It’s not simply another interactive whiteboard, rather an interactive learning space that creates a seamless environment for remote and in-person learners.

Not only that, it also interacts natively and seamlessly with Microsoft Teams, making it a natural extension for universities that have already made the transition to the collaboration software. It allows lecturers to improve the learning experience with several key features.

  • Easily record lessons through Microsoft Teams allowing students to access the information on demand and making individual study more effective.
  • Fast connection with people’s personal devices due to native Teams interaction. All students need to do is connect to Microsoft Teams in order to present, share notes and collaborate on the main screen – in full view of all remote and in-person participants.
  • Integration with the wider Microsoft Suite allows files to be shared from OneDrive, contacts sourced from Exchange and easy sharing of documents created in Office Suite software.
  • Enhanced audio and visual features allows everyone to be clearly seen and heard by everybody else, whether they’re sitting at the back of the lecture theatre or joining remotely.
  • Annotation with the Surface Pen allows lecturers to present in the normal way, with any notes being seamlessly translated via Teams to remote learners’ screens and into the lesson recording.

The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S is designed to work with, rather than against your existing technology. Together with Microsoft Teams, you can create an immersive learning experience that brings together remote and in-person learners – in a way that achieves sustainable, efficient and effective learning. In the long term, it’s those universities who offer this experience to their students that’ll adapt and succeed in this brave new world of hybrid learning.

If you’re an education provider looking to find out more about the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S in action, check out our eBook “Building tomorrow’s lecture theatre”. Alternatively, get in touch with the team at Academia to find out how we can help take your business forward into the hybrid world.

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