Utilizing AV to create Multi-Sensory Learning Experiences in Higher Education Classrooms
Imagine a world where sight and sound didn’t exist. Although we’d still have three senses—touch, taste and smell—our ability to experience the world would be severely limited. Now, imagine, in addition to touch, taste and smell, if we could only ever use sight or sound—but never together—to learn, grow and understand. This experience, though better, would only give us a portion of the whole picture. Historically, this has been a limitation, and still is, in many higher education spaces.
Benefits of Multi-Sensory Learning
One way to overcome this limitation is to create multisensory learning environments with properly designed audio and video systems. In the Benefits of Multisensory Learning study by Ladan Shams and Aaron R. Seitz, they assert that our experience in the world involves constant multisensory stimulation, and that the human brain has evolved to operate optimally in multisensory environments. Because of this, unisensory training protocols used for skill acquisition provide an unnatural setting. Moreover, Shams and Seitz stress the advantage of auditory-visual training and present a study with results showing that it reduced the number of learning sessions required by nearly 60 percent, while raising maximum performance.
Furthermore, Shams and Seitz, conclude that the simple advantage of multi-sensory learning is that it can engage different learning styles. This is where AV plays a critical role, and the principle of dual coding comes into play. This principle indicates that information entering through multiple processing channels helps overcome each individual channel’s limited capabilities. This in turn allows for greater processing and retention.
Achieving a Multi-Sensory Learning Environment
As we seriously contemplate multisensory learning environments, differing learning styles and impaired information processing, it becomes obvious that audio and video technology systems must play an integral role in achieving multisensory stimulation. Since in the majority of learning environments it is impractical to stimulate smell, taste and touch, great care must be given to make sure that seeing and hearing are stimulated to the maximum level during learning.
Everything we see is the product of light absorbed by, transmitted through, and reflected back from the surfaces of objects. The sense of sight must therefore be adequately stimulated by the carefully planned and accurate reflection of light into human eyes. This planning effort is no simple challenge, and must include designing the appropriate display technology and resolution, suitably sizing the display for viewing distances and anticipated content, and locating the display appropriately for viewing by learners and for interaction by instructors using various visual stimulation tools.
We have all experienced improperly designed display systems in learning environments, business meeting environments and other similar spaces. When display systems are improperly designed, the benefits of multisensory learning are lost. In order to help assure that display systems are properly designed, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), has developed several standards which all video display system designers should comply with. These standards include:
ANSI 3M-2011 Projected Image System Contrast Ratio
ANSI V202.01:2016 Display Image Size for 2D Content in Audiovisual Systems
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Friedrich Nietzsche. While limited learning can be achieved by visual (unisensory) simulation only, the additional proper stimulation of the sense of hearing brings reason and understanding to what we see. “Sound is what truly convinces the mind is in a place, in other words hearing is believing.” – Jesse Schell. When properly designed audio reinforcement systems are coupled with appropriate video display systems, the evolution of learning reaches its apex.
As with the proper design of video display systems, it is an understatement to say that a well-designed, installed and commissioned audio system is no simple challenge. Among many other things, the proper selection and placement of loudspeakers is critical in achieving speech intelligibility. As with the design of video display systems, ANSI has also published standards to help assure that loudspeaker systems are properly designed and commissioned. These standards include:
ANSI A102.01:2017 Audio Coverage Uniformity in Listener Areas
ANSI 10:2013 Audiovisual Systems Performance Verification
In addition to ANSI standards, the AV industry has matured and has produced multiple publications which establish AV system design, performance and commissioning standards. These publications help to stipulate best practices and define criteria for professional integration with the architectural, engineering and construction industries. Moreover, and perhaps of even greater importance, these publications institute definable and tangible governing standards which, if complied with, yield audio and video systems which magnificently stimulate the senses of seeing and hearing.
The days are gone when anyone with a home theater can claim to be an AV system designer. As with any other design or engineering discipline, AV technology designers must be certified and follow standardized practices which are adopted by industry governing bodies like ANSI and InfoComm (AVIXA). Utilization of a professional who is an industry Certified Technology Specialist in Design (CTS-D) is critical for deployment of successful AV systems, and will help your next higher education project evolve into a magnificent multisensory learning experience for learners.
Shams, L., & Seitz, A. R. (2008). Benefits of multisensory learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12 (11), 411-417.