From Conference Room to Classroom, Interns Learn That Audio Matters
Shure offers many ways to capture pristine audio in classrooms, conference rooms, and the home office. Most of our 2021 interns worked remotely, and had to rely on virtual meetings to engage in team projects and consult with their colleagues. We asked two of them to reflect on the role of audio interactivity in both educational and business environments.
“Unprecedented times” is a phrase the world has come to know all too well over the past 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic’s knack for altering every facet of society has made such a universal blanket statement feasible; the scope of the virus has spared no one, and students have been acutely subject to its effects. The most glaring adjustments for students have been those associated with remote learning, from becoming acclimated to online curriculums to learning the ins and outs of conferencing software.
Remote communication has affected young professionals in other pillars of life as well, most notably professionally. Interns everywhere have been forced to adapt to remote communication, fundamentally changing the experience of what is often their first or second employment opportunity. After sitting through meetings that often harbor varying levels of effectiveness, fellow Global Marketing intern Senah Park and I have been fortunate enough to have an exemplary communication experience at Shure. We have come to realize the importance of establishing best practice meeting protocols, while utilizing high-quality audio tech to match. No matter the setting, the success of a meeting is fundamentally dictated by the quality of the collaboration technology used. Having been impacted by varying levels of effectiveness in distance communication, we’d like to offer perspective on our experiences with remote audio systems in practice.
No matter the setting, the success of a meeting is fundamentally dictated by the quality of the collaboration technology used.
-- Conor McManamon
I am a rising junior at the University of Minnesota studying Advertising. Throughout the duration of the COVID pandemic, I have found that high-quality virtual connections are more of an exception than the rule. As was the nature of communication in 2020, I found myself entangled in hundreds of calls over various platforms – with mixed results. FaceTime chats with family and friends frequently were ineffective due to poor microphone quality. Zoom calls with academic peers often ran smoothly due to the commendable efforts of professors, but fell short in instances where best practice protocols weren’t implemented in settings such as group project meetings. Most classes at Minnesota (mine included) have been hosted online since the onset of the pandemic; in the past, I had not paid attention to the technology and practices put in place by university administrators. Although the content of my lectures was no different than it had been in-person, its spotty portrayal routinely rendered correspondence less effective. Through the lens of pandemic communication, I have come to understand that this intricate system has been in place all along – there are countless strings being pulled at once, and extended use of such practices has proven that one minute slip can derail the protocol entirely.
During my experience, I have learned that all successful remote communications start and end with high-quality audio systems and parallel protocols in place. Such arrangements allow members to connect at a level beyond what a laptop microphone and camera typically have to offer. My experience at Shure has been an outstanding example of such procedures! My associates and managers constantly utilize company conferencing technology to deliver crisp, clear audio that elevates meetings to higher levels of effectiveness. Sound of this quality brings about a sense of professionalism that can otherwise only be achieved in a live setting. As a result, I’ve been able to maximize the already great experience I’ve had as an intern at Shure.
I recently finished my junior year in the Marketing program at Brigham Young University. COVID restrictions in Utah (where I attend university) have continually been less limiting than other parts of the country, which allowed us to attend school in a hybrid-learning setting. This meant having a variety of instruction modes to choose from, including In-Person Classroom, Blended (a mixture of in-person & online instruction), Live Remote Delivery via Zoom, and On-Demand Remote Delivery.
Due to the nature of my program, about 75% of my classes were in-person during the 2020 Fall Semester. University policy allowed us to attend classes in person contingent on the fact that we followed social distancing procedures (including wearing masks), were symptom-free (which we verified on an app), and had not been knowingly exposed to the virus. My classes were challenging, but enjoyable! I was grateful for my situation - despite the few annoyances that took some time to get used to.
Having an optimal hybrid education experience is a three-way effort: by the educational institution, the instructor, and the student.
-- Senah Park Kearl
I realized how important reliable audio was when I was unknowingly exposed to the virus that semester. While waiting for my COVID test results, I attended my classes remotely and saw a whole new side of hybrid education. Because the classrooms weren’t optimized for online participation, the experiences I had from class to class differed depending on the level of accommodation my professors allowed. The main problem stemmed from not being able to hear my classmates, which was an issue as my lectures were discussion-based. I saw a world of difference when my Market Research professor would walk around the classroom and hand my peers a microphone to speak into, allowing me - and my fellow Zoom participants - to feel more included, just by being able to hear the conversation clearly.
Experiencing the vast contrast between the in-person and remote version of the same class helped me realize that good audio quality was truly a make-or-break factor in enabling my full participation and interest in the class. Additionally, I discovered having an optimal hybrid education experience is a three-way effort: by the educational institution, the instructor, and the student. First, considerable effort and investment by educational institutions is required to outfit their facilities with the proper equipment, as well as training staff on how to use it. Beyond this, instructors should make measures to enable all students to hear and actively participate in learning moments during class. Students should also make efforts to enhance their hybrid education experience by turning their video on and considering personal equipment to enhance the audio quality.
While the two of us have extensive experience with online communication, we understand that our stories are but two of millions of young professionals’ who have made the transition to remote work. To gain a more global perspective on the matter, we tapped the minds of our intern class through a seven-point survey. Our questionnaire asked interns to define the structure of their position, as well as to list the communication technology they utilize; these queries were followed by short answer prompts asking the participants to describe key communicative takeaways stemming from remote work.
The results of our survey proved the direct relation between quality of communication and the technology utilized to facilitate it. 100% of respondents utilized an external audio input on a day-to-day basis, whether it be a desktop microphone, wired headset or the Shure AONIC 50 headphones provided to each intern. This statistic directly correlated with employee satisfaction data; we found that despite 89% of our class having worked remotely or in a hybrid format this summer, 95% of interns agreed that they felt connected with their associates. The short answer responses reflected this notion, with common themes of audio continuity and concise transmission taking precedence.
After 18 months of muddling through hit-or-miss remote conferencing practices, we have gained valuable insight from our excellent communicative experience at Shure. Just like in-person conversation, clear dialog is imperative to productivity in the workplace, the classroom and beyond. As the “new normal” has become less “new” and more “normal”, we hope that the implementation of distance communication will continue to evolve accordingly.