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Ava + Webex Design The Classroom of the Future

Image courtesy of UAEU

With new efficiencies and enhanced learning experiences, students and educators, on-site and remote, stand to benefit from hybrid education. There is significant data and feedback, from both before and during pandemic times, supporting the power of accessible technology to bridge the digital and physical gaps in higher education settings.

In partnership and fully-integrated with Webex, Ava is leaning in to the Cisco mission to power an inclusive future.

Hybrid Options for Higher Learning

With exceptions for certain programs, the overall consensus deems remote learning as a less-than ideal long term solution for K-12 school systems. While many higher-learning institutions were also pushed out of their traditional, in-person comfort zones, technology and accessible solutions were not as detrimental to the education process for many departments and schools within university systems. And the same can be applied to continued education for adults.

Pandemic restrictions, in many cases, served to accelerate testing, planning, and implementation for hybrid education solutions that were already in motion. With the growing presence of online universities and company education/training programs, advanced learning settings inherently offer more flexibility to accommodate a varied list of preferences for both students and educators.

“Future Class” at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU)

In partnership with Cisco International, UAEU launched “Future Class,” a new initiative in alignment with the UAE national agenda of preparing for the fourth industrial revolution. To plan and build this classroom of the future, UAEU features a comprehensive set of Cisco technologies and collaboration devices, including Ava Telepresence to bring to life new thinking around learning collaboration and environments.

Both UAEU and Cisco Collaboration leadership believe this initiative is not limited to UAEU advancing their immediate education sector. It stands to position them as a global education leader, especially heading into a hybrid-focused learning and working world. Implementation and integration of AI and intelligent technologies allows them to:

  • Build the future of generations who contribute to creating and pioneering the future.

  • Advance higher education, creating a knowledge society fit for the country’s long term mindset.

  • Apply mobility and autonomy through robotics to activate new forms of interaction, collaboration, and learning experiences.

  • Create an environment that better simulates the workplace, using AI, smart tools and emerging technologies in education and research.

  • Promote partnership and cooperation between the university and other institutions/parties who are involved in technology applications.

Cisco Classroom Integration: Bridging What’s Possible for Education

As the industry leader in collaboration devices, technologies, Cisco Webex continues to work toward a more inclusive future with gap-closing, approachable tech. Cisco Lead Digitization Architect, Amjad Shahrour explains, “We want to innovate and establish new methods, but it all has to be usable, beneficial and available to students and educators right away.”

Countless customers across industries are expanding their Webex footprint, including devices and solutions like the new Webex Suite. For a higher learning setting, seamless integration and ease of use across the user journey is critical. Challenging traditional education environments, Cisco asked,

What if...

  • Schools and universities provide a multi-channel campus experience that blends physical methods with digital experiences.

  • Student attendance was documented automatically, using proximity and location.

  • Both students and educators were offered tools that promote safety, accessibility, and mobility, while being easy to implement.

  • Physical learning spaces became modular and adaptable to a variety of activities.

  • Leadership had visibility and a presence to get real-time feedback and to play a more active role in the learning process.

With a comprehensive set of Cisco solutions, including Cisco Webex, UC, DNA spaces, CMX, Webex-powered Ava Telepresence, and Meraki, it’s possible for UAEU, and other future classes, to benefit from enhanced user experience and management, the ability to capture classroom engagement, opportunities to bring both physical and digital content to life, and enable more meaningful interactions.

Mobility & Expansion with Webex-Integrated Ava Telepresence

In order to extend Webex capabilities to remote learners, educators, and other Future Class attendees/visitors, Cisco delivered on the concept of robotic assistance with the addition of Webex-integrated Ava Telepresence Robots. “We gave consideration to virtual or augmented reality components, but these solutions aren’t as immediately intuitive and easy like Ava. And with Webex already built-in, it was an easy decision. We needed something that could be dynamic in the space, doing what static screens couldn’t do,” Shahrour says.

With all of the other AI-driven, intelligent enhancements to the learning environment, it is important to satisfy existing needs, filling experience gaps. But, like other emerging initiatives, the Classroom of the Future will be iterative. Which is why Ava’s autonomous mobility, independence, and user customization can satisfy new use cases as they develop.

“We gave consideration to virtual or augmented reality components, but these solutions aren’t as immediately intuitive and easy like Ava. And with Webex already built-in, it was an easy decision. We needed something that could be dynamic in the space, doing what static screens couldn’t do."

- Amjad Shahrour, Lead Digitization Architect, Cisco Dubai

Telepresence Robots in Classroom of the Future: Use Cases

At UAEU, the initial plan for Ava was focused upon student-to-teacher interaction and advancing that digital journey to improve learning outcomes. But after some consideration, the primary use cases evolved to be more inclusive and centered around the possibilities of the speaker.

Who could now have the opportunity to teleport via the robot?

How could it make a difference and add value to the learning experience?

Three use cases emerged:

Senior Leadership Presence

For the students at UAEU, having distinguished guests share the learning environment means a great deal. If the Chancellor or the Dean has the opportunity to take a walk around the space and physically approach students and educators, it’s good for morale and becomes a point of pride. Accessibility and involvement from leadership is a crucial enhancement to educational environments.

IT Support Presence

As most higher learning campuses are very large, it’s not always easy for university staff to get from A to B. This includes technical support staff mobility for setup, resolution, or assistance. Should a classroom need IT support or special preparations for an activity, Ava can teleport a remote specialist, or on-campus specialist in real-time to assist more efficiently.

Teacher Assistant Presence

Break-out sessions and small group formats are not always easy for educators or moderators to monitor effectively. For remote teacher assistants to join the class and be present with more groups of students, the interaction and experience vastly improves. More questions answered, more topics explored, and a better overall connection between students and educators.

A More Complete and Inclusive Learning Experience is Possible

In addition to raising the bar for technology standards in education, bridging the gap between physical, on-site learning and remote participation has never been more important. Education leadership, similar to business leadership, must satisfy new expectations around where and how learning happens. Empowering remote participation and experience through digital solutions is part of a bigger whole that also includes ease of use and productivity for those who are in a space or managing the technology and design of the space to optimize for safety and learning experience.

Education deserves better solutions for a more complete experience for teachers, students, and any other contributing party. With accessible Cisco technology paired with committed leadership, it’s time to promote what’s possible.

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