5 new ways smartboards are improving the quality of higher education
Speaker Giving a Talk at Business Meeting. Audience in the conference hall. Business and Entrepreneurship. Copy space on white board.
Postsecondary enrolment has declined steadily during the past decade.
And this trend is expected to continue.
According to a U.S. economist, college enrolment will fall by more than 15 percent after 2025[1] due to a decline in birthrates following the financial crisis. Meanwhile, a report by PwC[2] states that if Canadian schools don’t take action, they will be forced to cut staff, raise tuition, and seek more government funding to survive the declining enrolment. These measures will add $1.9 billion in cumulative debt to Ontario’s budget alone.
Universities and colleges in Canada as well as globally are in a massive state of change. As the gap between the corporate and college worlds widens, institutions find themselves having to train students for jobs and technologies that don’t exist yet. Couple this with the shifting expectations of a generation shaped by access to limitless information regardless of location, time of day, or need, and it comes as no surprise that static, traditional lecture halls and classrooms will require and experience significant change within the next few years.
Faced with these risks, higher education institutions are under pressure to attract students. Preparing students for the new world of work can give your institution a competitive advantage, as more young people want degrees that will guarantee them meaningful employment after they graduate. As universities seek to increase enrolment, they must look at how they implement and deliver classroom technology as part of the expectation prospective students have for their tuition or lose them to more innovative schools (you may even lose valued staff as well!).
Utrecht University in the Netherlands is at the forefront of this shakeup. To help shape the campus of the future, the university teamed up with Ricoh to develop a “Teaching & Learning Lab,” a space dedicated to testing the latest innovations, developing applications, and measuring their impact. We’ll learn more about the exciting work they’re doing later in this post.
As educators (or just as accurately, school executive and support staff tasked with delivering exceptional student experiences) helping to give students an edge, you must bring the Four C’s of 21st Century Learning – communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration – into every classroom. All four of these skills are vital in today’s job market, especially in the growing STEM fields where more graduates are seeking employment.
In fact, the World Economic Forum found that creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration will be some of the most-desired job skills by 2025.[3]

Why most classroom technology fails to prepare students for the job market 

Many institutions are making their classrooms more collaborative to mirror today’s workspaces. To do this, they are bringing in technology that promotes collaboration, such as unified communications tools and smart boards.
However, this technology has its limitations.
For example, many smart boards (as they were once known) required special, hard to use software that is compatible with its hardware. You can’t just open a Microsoft program and expect an old-school smart board to work.
Needing special software that may not be intuitive makes it hard to prepare lessons, as they must convert files into formats that are compatible with the smart board. This greatly increases the amount of time spent putting presentations together.
As an educator, if you can’t upload all your files to a smart board, you may need to remove items from your lesson or find other ways to deliver the information to students.
This complexity can also lead to tech troubles during class. Students will lose interest if you need to stop your lesson to troubleshoot technology. Once students’ interest is lost, you’ll have a hard time drawing them back into your presentation.
It’s not surprising that many smart boards have gone unused – causing institutions to waste money on technology and as a result, opinions about maintaining the status quo to harden.

The new, collaborative classroom

The next generation, known also as interactive whiteboards (IWBs) and more often, interactive flat panel displays (IFPDs) – are making classrooms more collaborative and creative. Since they don’t have the limitations of previous technology, they help you quickly develop lessons and then present them in an engaging manner.
Here are some of the ways that today’s IFPDs can make your job easier – while you better prepare students for today’s collaborative work environments:
1) Make lessons interactive
Instead of just lecturing, you can use an IFPD to collaborate with students. For example, you can invite a student to upload their project from their laptop or mobile device. Then, you can discuss it with the class.
You can annotate directly on the screen and save the marked-up file to a student’s device or a shared drive. That way, the student can spend their class time discussing their work and sharing ideas, as opposed to taking notes. After class, the student can easily access the file and refer to your comments.
2) Support multimedia
You’re no longer limited to files that are compatible with your smart board’s hardware. New IFPDs are Windows-based, allowing you to run any program or file that works with Microsoft.
During class, you can seamless­ly move between file types such as web pages, videos, images, and Microsoft programs. This puts more tools at your disposal and helps you make your lessons more engaging and interactive.
3) Increase engagement
Displaying multimedia files on an IFPD is as easy as showing someone a photo on your smartphone.
And, since you can open any file in just seconds, you don’t need to worry about tech troubles that can slow you down and cause students to lose interest in your lessons. You’re also not limited by the size of your screen. If you have a large classroom, you can connect your IFPD to a projector so students in the back of the room can see what’s happening. Using a projector also ensures that students can see everything that you’re doing on the screen – even if you’re standing directly in front of it.
4) Save time
It can take up to four hours to prepare for a single hour of class.[4] Using an IFPD can greatly reduce the amount of time that you must spend planning lessons, as you don’t need to convert files into formats that are compatible with your smart board. You also won’t need to consolidate all your content into a single presentation.
Instead, you simply grab a folder that contains a mix of files (e.g., images, Word docs, PDFs, videos, slides, spreadsheets, etc.) and drop it into your presentation.
5) Improve collaboration with other staff members
IFPDs make it easy for you to collaborate with your colleagues – whether they work down the hall or on another campus. Use the screen to video chat, collaborate on lesson plans, and mark up files.
Master’s students who are working on dissertations can also use the technology to collaborate with their advisors.
IFPDs make learning spaces more flexible, allowing you to better engage students both in the classroom and via online learning.

How Utrecht University Is Enabling Student Success

Take the work Ricoh has done and continues to do with partner Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
Utrecht University is a truly inspiring place, with no shortage of environments designed to continually enrich and improve the student experience.
Designed as a completely flexible, modular space, at first glance the classrooms are not as futuristic as you might expect. But dig deeper and advances made here could well revolutionize higher education in the future. Centered around different visual communication solutions—such as internet-connected interactive whiteboards—the classroom allows for collaboration between teacher and student in a way that has not been possible before.
This includes a facility where teachers and students can give instant feedback on the Ricoh technology available to them including our interactive whiteboards, video conferencing solutions and 360-degree cameras.
Here is how Utrecht University use IFPDs in their Teaching and Learning Labs to stimulate creative thought and improve its quality of education.

And here’s how Ricoh helping academia supercharge their reputation as a global research leader.

Impressive tech but how does this help the university address societal challenges while continuing to innovate? Part of the answer lies in blended learning – the method of teaching through a mixture of classroom-based, online, and self-guided techniques. This was brought to life brilliantly at a recent event hosted by the university and powered by Ricoh as part of a project with students in Indonesia where a math professor was able to use video-conferencing software to teach students without ever having to leave their classroom in Europe.
Collaboration isn’t just limited to the classroom and has been key to developing the lab. The partnership is part of a wider digital transformation program the university is undertaking, aiming to future-proof the campus and explore emerging technologies.
It’s also a glowing example of how Ricoh is also supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – in this case, to ensure quality education and the promotion of distance education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Next Steps

Do you spend too much time planning lessons?
An IFPD can dramatically reduce the time you spend putting together presentations. Since today’s screens are as easy to use as a smartphone, you won’t need to troubleshoot technology during class. Instead, you can focus on engaging students and giving them the skills they need to succeed in the new world of work.
Click here to learn more about how Ricoh solutions can help in the classroom and deliver a future-ready classroom experience with interactive technology, space utilization capabilities, easy equipment ordering and a paperless approach, to help you lower costs and maximize learning.
Click here to learn more about Ricoh solutions for Classroom Innovation and Collaboration Spaces for K-12.

[1] The Hechinger Report: College students predicted to fall by more than 15% after the year 2025, September 10, 2018

[2] The Globe & Mail: Declining enrolment has Ontario colleges facing an uphill battle: PwC report, April 14, 2017

[3] World Economic Forum:, These are the top 10 job skills of tomorrow – and how long it takes to learn them, October 21, 2020

[4] American Faculty Association: Hours for Teaching and Preparation Rule of Thumb: 2-4 Hours of Prep for 1 Hour of Class