Hybrid Learning with the Shure Audio Ecosystem at the UNIVPM
UNIVPM, Università Politecnica delle Marche, is a University in Ancona, Italy that was established in 1969. Divided into 5 faculties in the city, the university holds approximately 17000 students. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the social distancing guidelines, the school had to transfer into hybrid learning. This required an upgrade in some of the AV equipment to enable a seamless learning experience for the students.
Two classrooms, Room A and Room Q in the Medicine and Surgery Faculty, had to be adapted for both in-class and distanced learning with Microsoft Teams compatibility and voicelift. The university required the new solution to be hands-free to reduce the risk of Covid-19 contamination.
Room A is a 7 x 16 meters venue, with a 7-metre-high ceiling with raked seating for the students. It has many reflective glass and metal surfaces which caused bad acoustics even in the absence of amplification. The speakers were oriented towards the source of the sound which caused audio feedback. The new system needed to use the existing wall-mounted PA system.
Room Q is 15 x 15 meters with a lower, 3-metre ceiling and level floor. However, due to the uneven acoustic distribution in the room, the back rows could not hear the teacher clearly. The existing ceiling-mounted PA system in this room was also required to be compatible with the new system.
In both cases, there was no audio connectivity between the audio system and the in-room PC; mandatory for distance-learning over Teams.
The voicelift solution was designed and implemented by Ae.Net Srl (System Integrator), in collaboration with Shure.
An MXA710-4ft (120 cm) Linear Array Microphone was installed horizontally over the teacher’s desk. This mounting kept the desk clean and avoided a shadow on the projection screen. The MXA710’s integrated automixer feeds the speakers and decides which lobes to keep open for active talkers while the Autofocus technology follows the sound source. The technology allows the teacher to talk walking around in the blackboard area freely.
A P300 Intellimix was integrated with the MXA710 to provide USB connectivity to MS Teams PCs, providing Acoustic Echo Cancellation and improving sound intelligibility by reducing background noise.
Room Q has a 3-metre-high ceiling. An MXA910 Ceiling Array Microphone was installed in the ceiling above the teacher's desk to ensure that the whole blackboard area is covered.
Like Room A, a P300 Intellimix was integrated with the MXA910 for audio processing and to provide USB connectivity to MS Teams PCs. Six of the MXA910’s 8 lobes were aimed at the teacher’s desk and the blackboard. The remaining two aimed at the students: this way, when an in-classroom student asks a question, the microphone captures their voice and transmits it to the online students; the teacher doesn’t need to repeat the question before answering it. This will save a great deal of time and effort in hybrid learning.
Voicelift was required in the classroom to provide subtle voice reinforcement in this large space. An ANI4OUT was used to bridge the gap between the MXA910's processed Dante audio and the analogue inputs on the speaker amplifier. The existing speakers were rewired for appropriate voicelift zoning. Only the 6 ‘teacher’ lobes were reinforced. Both the videoconferencing and voicelift systems were optimized to suit respective best-in-class standards.
Two MXN5W-C PoE Networked Loudspeakers were added to the existing PA system to improve the teacher's listening and interaction with the far-end participants. The MXC5W-C is Shure's first loudspeaker and is both Dante Domain Manager compatible and Microsoft Teams Certified.
Finally, an MXA Mute Button was installed on both rooms’ teacher's desk for system muting. The mute button actually mutes the P300’s automixer output and not the MXA microphones directly; this is best practice for AEC systems. A green LED light on both the MXA mics and Mute button indicates active audio and red LED indicates system mute.
Both classrooms are now adapted to both distance learning and in-class lessons with great audio quality and speech intelligibility.
“The Shure Ecosystem and the careful tuning of the existing PA systems have increased the efficiency of the lessons with high audio quality. These hands-free sound reinforcement solutions also guarantee a safe environment.” said Giovanni Marconi, Head of the IT Department. “The ease of use of the systems has improved the teachers’ performance and resulted in the satisfaction of everyone participating in the class, both the teachers and the students.” Added Maria Laura Fiorini, IT Manager.
|MXA910||1||The new MXA910 with IntelliMix® represents the next evolution in the Microflex® Advance™ Ceiling Array Microphone platform.|
|IntelliMix P300||2||Audio conferencing processor offers IntelliMix DSP algorithms optimized for audio/video conferencing applications.|
|ANI4OUT||2||Converts Dante™ digital audio signal to four discrete line / mic analog signals.|
|Microflex™ MXN5W-C||2||Microflex™ MXN5W-C Networked Loudspeaker|
|MXA710||1||The linear form factor of the MXA710 with IntelliMix® allows for placement virtually anywhere in a meeting space, including on a wall, around a display, ceiling, or into a conference room table.|