Collaboration in education: technologies and trends

Earlier this year the BETT show revealed the growing range of solutions available to schools moving away from traditional font-of-class teaching methods to collaborative techniques. Here, we look at recent statistics published about the growing market for hardware and software, and report on recent projects that deploy these solutions.

Sales of education digital management platforms and tools are forecast, by Futuresource, to grow at a CAGR of 4.5% to 2020, reaching $1.83 billion•. This growth is indicative of the changing education technology landscape, characterised by: the adoption of mobile PC’s in classrooms; the digitisation of content; a growing reliance on cloud services; and a high penetration of smart devices amongst parents, teachers and students.

To accommodate an increasingly digital school environment, the platforms and tools market is evolving and growing with developments across both administrative and instructional technologies. The latest report from Futuresource’s Educational Technology team examined the digital platforms and tools markets for K-12 education in both the US and UK. As the diversity of solutions in use grows, end-users are demanding platform rationalisation and integration.

As such, supply side consolidation and applications interoperability are key areas of development. The recent past has seen major US players like PowerSchool (Student Information Systems) & Blackboard (Communications & Learning Management) increase market exposure through the acquisition of complimentary and competitive solutions. “These companies are seeking to become holistic suppliers, leveraging the customer base of individual businesses to upsell a broader solution,” comments Ben Davis, Senior Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting.

Data standards and integration solutions from providers like Ed-Fi, IMS Global and Clever are uniting the applications ecosystem, reducing operational burdens and creating new opportunities for high growth product segments like data analytics platforms. “This could have significant implications for procurement going forwards,” continues Davis. “With these tools used to identify strategies for student retention, analyse the ROI of investments and differentiate learning for students, analytics platforms have the capacity to influence school leadership at the highest levels.”

Classroom technology

In the classroom, the increased utilisation of PC’s has spurred rapid growth for device management tools servicing both administrative and instructional requirements. Mobile device management software allows IT staff to centrally distribute applications and configure devices while classroom management and collaboration tools allow teachers to monitor the usage of devices and engage students via quizzing games and interactive presentations.

“Market value in these segments is high growth, especially in the US, where the penetration of student devices is over 45%. Unlike other product segments (which are closely aligned to local curriculum and reporting standards), these solutions offer significant international growth opportunities. Companies in this space will be some of the most interesting to watch, going forwards, as the penetration of devices in international markets rises,” adds Davis.

The rise of freemium business models is another key takeaway from the report. This is most notable in the arena of instructional technologies, where there are already large user basis for tools enabling classroom communications, assignment distribution and student response. Providers show the capacity to displace and disrupt more traditional paid for solutions in areas like learning management and classroom response but some are struggling to monetise.

“Some of these companies have amassed user bases into the tens of millions and attracted significant investment, but there is a clock ticking on the ability to turn a profit. Some are seeking to monetise in areas adjacent to the core product offering, but the most successful freemium approaches have come from companies able to monetise the core product after offering a free to access trial or ‘lite’ solution,” says Davis.


Market values include initial implementation and licensing costs only. Revenues for additional professional development are excluded. Associated hardware and additional hosting costs are excluded. Values exclude additional transactional costs incurred including SMS text costs, cashless payment charges and digital content sales. Values include content agnostic solutions only and do not include course management tools designed to manage proprietary content. **Values exclude security and smart campus solutions including web filtering, identify management, building automation and communications safeguarding. Values exclude productivity software including Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop and similar.


Education in the next decade

At BETT 2017, Promethean, in association with new parent company NetDragon treated delegates to a VR-based vision of the future of education (see AV News YouTube channel for our video report). Around the same time, Polycom unveiled a long-term vision which has an even more profound impact on education as we know it – according to the VC specialists, the future of education is online,

A recent report commissioned by Polycom, 72% of education professionals believe teachers are performing the leading role in education today, but only 40% believe this will still be the case in 2025. Furthermore, 53% of education professionals believe real-time video collaboration and mobile devices will be the primary ways students engage with content by 2025.

Much as we expect, the stumbling block in the way of Prometheans VR-led future is funding – the Polycom findings goes a step further, with 36% of EMEA education professionals reporting that funding is the biggest inhibitor to a more positive future for education in general. This contrasts with the agreement of 30% of education professionals who say making education accessible to anyone who wants to learn is the most important factor in the future of education. Unsurprisingly then, the #Education in 2025 – Technology Innovation’ Report concludes that institutions are currently failing to maximise the potential of the technology available today.

AV News’ videographer Matt Strange tries some of Promethean’s VR solutions at BETT 2017.

Matt at Bett 1718012


Given currented education funding, choices have to be made between conflicting priorities. The majority of education professionals feel the primary focus should be on improving the quality of teacher training (34%). Other factors that respondents feel need attention are, personalising the student-learning experience (17%) and taking advantage of new technology (13%).

Looking into the future of education, Survey respondents predict that the learning environment will break free from the classroom: 64% of respondents reported that students in 2015 primarily engaged with content in the classroom, but only 25% predicted it will still be the leading way for learning in 2025. Alongside this, the use of remote learning technologies in teaching is expected to rise significantly: 53% of education professionals believe real-time video collaboration and mobile devices will be the primary way students engage with content by 2025.

A combination of funding challenges and the need to prepare a skilled workforce prompted a significant 58% of EMEA respondents expect to see greater collaboration between schools and corporations by 2025. The majority of respondents believe there will be a more defined career pathway through the schooling process. Furthermore, the majority of EMEA respondents predict that the role a teacher plays in education will become less important in coming years, with the role of thought leaders and educational outreach programmes becoming increasingly important to education.

Andrew Graley, Polycom’s Director of Healthcare, Education and Government for EMEA believes that industry expert advice in education courses will become more accessible: “With the real-time video collaboration technology that’s available today, there’s no reason why students can’t speak to industry experts about their field of study. It’s possible to connect with an expert anywhere in the world at any time – it’s just one click away.”

However, education professionals believe laptop use in a classroom environment is likely to drastically decline: 66% of those surveyed think laptops are how students currently engage with content, but only 29% think this will stay the same by 2025. “If you have a room full of students sat on separate laptops on the same website going through an interactive online course, why do they need to be in a classroom? If students can do the basic, information-heavy lessons from home through online courses, that frees up face-to-face classroom time for practical and interactive learning” explains Graley.

Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are predicted to be the number one investment in coming years, closely followed by physical creative learning environments: “There is clearly a trend for integrating technology with physical teaching; it’s about finding a balance and doing what is best for the pupils. It’s important that we don’t lose that face-to-face practical teaching environment, but make sure we maximise the potential that technology can bring to the education landscape,” explains Graley.

The Report concludes that education is best described as between paradigms from the traditional to the digital. Students expect a highly engaging interactive learning environment, not stagnant instructor-led designs. Learning technologies, and changing pedagogical methods, are not only changing the teaching method but also the physical environments housing teaching.

The classroom of the future recasts tomorrow’s educational settings in exciting new formats: global connectivity and collaboration, combined with technology that allows for interactive and student tailored lessons. It is both physical and virtual, it is mobile and engaging, it is personal yet scalable.

Specific findings include:

  • Collaborative, team-based learning engages students. The right technology –flexible media, high-quality connections – enhances students’ experience to the level of “I’d hate to miss this” learning.
  • Faculty can readily connect face-to-face with one or with many participants. Subject matter experts, community resources, or colleagues can be included through desktop or mobile devices by using a rich interactive toolset.
  • Become part of something larger than one standalone school. Share innovations and best practices – develop flexible strategies and collaboration techniques – within a growing community of interest.
  • Capturing lectures and managing content for live on-demand and revote viewing.

Over the next 10 years, the Report emphasises the continuing significance of the private sector innovation in the future of education (see Chart 1). Priorities for investment include virtual learning environments, “physical creative learning environments” and collaborative software platforms (see Chart 2). Overall, the fundamental trend in the future of education is greater collaboration between schools and corporations.



Chart 1: Where do you think new education models will come from in the future?


Collaboration in action: Avocor and Generation Digital at Guildhall School


The Guildhall School recently completed a £90 million project to expand its facilities, providing state-of-the-art performance and teaching spaces including: a 608-seat concert hall, a 223-seat theatre, a studio theatre, three major rehearsal rooms, a TV studio suite and numerous teaching rooms, meeting spaces and conferencing facilities to attract the very best teaching faculty and student community. One of the challenges faced by the deployment team at the School centred around how to create cloud-based, collaborative environments.

The Guildhall School of Music & Drama is a world-class higher education institution which offers aspiring musicians, actors, stage managers and theatre technicians a creative and stimulating environment in which to develop as artists and professionals. Widely considered a bastion of creative and professional practice, the Guildhall School actively promotes innovation, experiment and research.

The refurbishment is designed to enhance teaching and learning and to attract the best students and faculty members. To help them address this challenge, the School engaged digital transformation consultants, Generation Digital, to provide programme management and governance to help the School make the right investments based on best of breed technology and progress the programme forward to completion.

Project management

Leading a joint team with the School, Generation Digital provided the project management, design, implementation, systems integration, training and change management expertise needed to support the deployment of the new technology within challenging timeframes.

There were several key project success criteria, specifically:

• Create new revenue streams for the School by building an online learning platform – meeting the increased demand from international students

• Enhance meeting and teaching spaces with the best collaboration tools in the market

• Build a solution that both teachers and students will find easy and enjoyable to use

• Limit the need for on-going capital hardware expenditure by facilitating cloud based storage.

Meeting the challenge

Guildhall School’s Head of IT, Richard Antonel, was charged with specifying IT facilities and infrastructure that could provide the highest possible levels of performance and future proofing. He explains: “The scope (of the project) was to install the highest standard of teaching and learning equipment available at the time. The goal was to put students and teachers at the heart of the technology strategy. The School wanted to provide more students with internet-enabled learning systems, so they could learn anytime, anywhere.”

“Since the School serves a wide range of students and teachers around the globe, they needed an affordable, flexible solution that would improve the learning experience for every student and teacher within every department. These new digital/cloud systems need human focused user experience allowing true global cloud collaboration without the burden of learning new and complex systems. Also they wanted to increase revenue by offering on-line courses or a mix of physical and virtual content courses.”

Specifying the solution

To help make the right technology investments and ensure the project was a success, the Guildhall School engaged Generation Digital to define the strategy and consult on the best technology solution to meet the requirements and tight timescales for deployment, whilst gaining the quickest return on investment.

The central core of the solution were the interactive, multi-touch, 4K display screens deployed from Avocor, ranging from 65” through to 84”. One of the core principles of the Avocor solution is the fact that the solution is based on an open platform. This enabled Generation Digital to build a bespoke solution that met the needs of the School.

Powered by Windows 10, the Avocor displays were perfect for the cloud based elements of the project, allowing users to access collaboration packages such as Microsoft Office 365, Skype for Business, Skype, Adobe Connect and Google Hangouts straight from the display. The Windows 10 operating system also ensured that users were presented with a familiar interface rather than propriety software platforms that required extensive adoption training.


The wealth of connectivity allows for video conferencing cameras to be added to the solution whilst cloud based web conferencing software enables immersive meeting experiences, virtual online course delivery and large scale webinars, all providing a transformation learning environment to deliver world class digital collaboration.



The Avocor 84” Ultra High-Definition 4K F touch screen includes a built-in Intel quad core processor running Windows 10 operating system. This allows users to access, manage and create content, use familiar software packages, browse the Internet and gain access to the Windows store, all in a safe and familiar environment.



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