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Q&A with Nick Barker, Specialst in Higher and Further Education

Q&A with Nick Barker, our Higher and Further Education Specialist

Nick Barker, Business Development Manager for Higher and Further Education

Our newly appointed Business Development Manager for Higher and Further Education, Nick Barker, shares his thought on what’s next for the sector. 

Nick, welcome to the team. Tell us a little about yourself…
I joined Clevertouch in January of this year following previous roles dealing with colleges and universities at Sony and Epson. It has been a bit of a whirlwind with the unexpected lockdown, but I’m passionate about technology and helping FE/HE establishments embrace interactive and collaborative teaching and looking forward to what lies ahead. 

HE/FE covers sixth forms, colleges, and universities. What are the differences in requirements between these establishments?
I find that requirements from different establishments vary, but in the main projects are driven by the users (Academics/Lecturers) and also the audience. I often tailor proposals as a result, for example our UX Pro Enterprise display, whilst aimed at the corporate market, fits very well into the University environment due to the interface and walk up and use capability. There are similarities between the requirements of a multiuser meeting room to that of a university teaching and learning space or student huddle area. Additionally, our Impact Plus range suits Sixth Forms and colleges due to the education look and feel, plus providing a good training aid for trainee teachers within education faculties at University.

Why touch technology?
Its familiar. We all have smart phones and use touch screens at the supermarket, airport, retail etc. It is an expected technology of today’s students. Our technology provides a seamless interface where actions and gestures are intuitive. Collaboration and touch can be used not only on the display itself, but also on students’ own smartphones/tablets.

Most university students bring their own devices to lectures. How does Clevertouch integrate with these devices?
Clevertouch prides itself on being an agnostic platform. Students can use any of their own devices, be it Apple, Android, Mac, PC, Chromebook to wirelessly share content using our Clevershare App and/or dongles.

Lecture theatres typically deal with large numbers of students. How can technology help in these large learning spaces?
I see a lot of applications for large venue projection in lecture theatres. It’s important for students to see the content being delivered to enhance learning. Laser projection is the norm now for these spaces due to the low/zero maintenance and high brightness output, needed for large screen sizes. Interactivity and collaboration can still be utilised here, with a Clevertouch interactive display, fed into the projector also.

Do you see distance learning becoming more prevalent in the future?
Yes, especially within the current climate. This has needed to be adopted quickly in most cases, where establishments have had to train staff and embed VC platforms to enable online lecture delivery. As confidence grows, I see lectures taking a more online approach and/or streamed, plus opportunities for remote collaboration also.

How do you see the HE/FE landscape changing in 2020 and beyond? 
I think we all need to ascertain what the “new normal” is and analyse how we can provide a safe on-site environment for college/university staff and students. Then, I see a blended learning approach moving forward whereby there will be some smaller lectures onsite and some delivered online, all using the latest platforms such as Zoom/ Microsoft Teams etc. Clevertouch already has a partnership with Zoom for easy deployment. 

Keeping staff, students and visitors informed and up to date with internal as well as external news will also be important, so cloud digital signage with its ability to be quickly and easily updated will become more prevalent around campus, in public areas, within lecture rooms and in staff areas.  The FE/HE Ecosystem that we have is the perfect platform to coordinate content across estates. Clevertouch Interactive Displays, standard Large Format Displays and Lecture/Seminar Room Booking Panels can all be updated quickly at the same time form the one platform, reducing burden on IT/AV Support teams.

Security is a key factor when HE/FE make their decision on what technology platforms to install. How does Clevertouch meet high security requirements? 
The great thing about Clevertouch is it is very flexible and agnostic by design, so it can seamlessly integrate with varying networks and infrastructure on site. The ability to remotely manage all displays centrally for example and disable certain apps/features and turn on/off etc allows for as much security as anyone may need. Clevertouch can run on-or-off the network. Settings, apps and Android can all be disabled if required. Data can be wiped at the end of a session and the screen can be locked with a secure passcode. We publish security documentation for IT/Network managers to help Clevertouch integrate into different environments. Ultimately, Clevertouch can be very secure and we have deployed in several high security environments, including large corporates, financial institutions and the MOD. 

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I see a blended learning approach moving forward whereby there will be some smaller lectures onsite and some delivered online.“