Deploying WebRTC: Straight Ahead, with Two Sharp Turns

It seems everybody will be showing up at the WebRTC III Conference and Expo this week. The event has quickly become the premier venue for all things related to WebRTC, and attracts hundreds of people to standing-room-only presentations. It is rare that a technology generates so much interest so early in its development phase.

A lot of the industry excitement is perfectly justified. Until now, video and audio communication was only possible using dedicated applications and devices. WebRTC will provide a standardized API to the functions of a real-time communication device, built into a web browser. This will decouple application development from video engine development and unleash web-based application development creativity into the real-time communications arena. Video and audio communication will now be integrated into applications in ways that were previously not possible. Although companies like Vidyo have already been creating APIs for their video engines, WebRTC is the first instance of an industry-standard API. The fact that it originates from W3C and IETF further solidifies its credentials. The elimination of the “download” step is also very important in several application deployment scenarios.

In the midst of the excitement, however, there are two things that need to be considered. First, putting an API around a video and audio engine does not mean that one has solved the problems of packet-based video and audio transport over the Internet. This includes congestion control, rate control, error resilience, error concealment, among many others. An API is, and should be, transparent with respect to all these issues, since it does not affect application design and implementation. The quality of experience that a user will get, however, depends on what’s under the hood.

Vidyo has demonstrated that scalable video coding is the way forward for high quality, real-time video over the Internet, and nearly all companies in the field have followed our lead. Our recent announcement with Google concerning the development of a scalable video extension for VP9 is further testament to the need for scalability on the video codec, regardless of its origin. An inherent benefit of the WebRTC architecture is that one will be able to use a better codec without changing any part of the application’s code.

The second consideration that WebRTC enthusiasts should take into account is that in order for WebRTC to fulfill its promise of ubiquitous use of video and audio communication in web applications, it must be possible to design servers that can support the scale of these video and audio applications. This is essential for multi-point applications. A WebRTC server application must be able to support hundreds of users to be economically sensible. Traditional transcoding servers (MCUs) that have been used in videoconferencing are very complex, expensive, introduce unacceptable delay, and have very poor scalability (number of simultaneous users). This is a well-known problem in the video conferencing industry, and one that Vidyo has successfully solved with its patented VidyoRouter architecture. The VidyoRouter performs no transcoding, and can support hundreds of users from a single 1 RU box. Introduced in 2008, together with the first-ever Scalable Video Coding (SVC) endpoint design, it brought video conferencing in line with any other network application. Today the VidyoWorks platform represents the best solution for supporting large-scale WebRTC deployments.

There is no doubt in my mind that WebRTC represents a great leap forward for video and audio communication. In fact, I am sure we will all be surprised by the range and reach of the applications that will be developed. All the elements are getting in place and the road ahead is clear for its deployment and widespread use. Application developers should realize, however, that WebRTC is an endpoint API. Architects must take into consideration all the additional elements that are required to create successful applications that can scale to large numbers of users, and provide the high quality that users expect. A scalable codec and a non-transcoding server are the two most important elements.

The excitement today about WebRTC is centered on the application development community. If we are to transfer it to the user community we must make sure that we deliver the best possible quality and experience to them. In the past, legacy videoconferencing systems failed to meet consumer expectations so users shied away from using it. Today we finally have the technical know-how to deliver superb video and audio quality everywhere. We must make sure that we use it; users will reject any application, or technology, that falls short regardless of how promising the architecture may be.

Alex drives the technical vision and direction for Vidyo and also represents the company on standardization committees and technical advisory boards. He is an award-winning researcher, bringing over 23 years of research experience in video compression and communications to his role at Vidyo. Prior to Vidyo he was an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University. Alex has more than 100 publications, holds 64 patents (several of which are used in Blu-ray Disc, H.264/AVC, and ATSC digital television systems), and has served as the Editor of the MPEG-4 Systems specification, Co-Editor of the H.264 SVC Conformance specification, and Co-Editor of IETF’s RTP Payload Format for SVC.  He is a Member of the Boards of IMTC and of the UCI Forum, and co-chairs the IMTC SVC Activity Group as well as the UCI Forum’s SVC Technical Working Group.

 

Simply Amazing: Counting Vidyo Connections at CERN

What’s really BIG at CERN – the research organization that focuses on the smallest objects in the universe?

I’m not talking about CERN’s Large Hadron Collider that has been used to identify the Higgs boson. Nope, it’s the size of their VidyoConferencing deployment and its utilization.

Throughout 2012, the client downloads rose slowly from about 2000 to just under 14,000. Then, in January, the Vidyo service fully took the load and downloads exploded by more than 10,000 downloads to almost 24,000 in just five months.

But it’s not just the number of users that’s impressive, it’s how CERN leverages visual collaboration in their research. They are peaking 600 simultaneous connections at precise points in any given day. Some of these meetings may be small, connecting individuals to other individuals, or can be even larger, connecting groups with groups — in all, these meetings are averaging 2000 total connections a day. But it is the ability to hold large meetings that is really important to CERN’s collaborations. Since CERN started using Vidyo, they’ve had over 1400 meetings where the number of participants ranged between 25–50 connections. And this is all on a self-managed system with a worldwide deployment connecting people with mobile devices, laptops and room systems including legacy H.323 systems.

Two of CERN’s largest research experiments are ATLAS and CMS which are the largest international scientific collaborations in history, involving thousands of particle physicists, engineers, technicians, students and support staff from hundreds of universities and institutes. In April 2013 alone, ATLAS had 1860 Vidyo meetings and CMS had 1183 Vidyo meetings.

Steven Goldfarb, Outreach and Education Coordinator for ATLAS describes why Vidyo is so important to their mission:

Much of our research is done outside of CERN, maybe 10 percent of us are here at CERN. We have to remain connected all of the time. That’s the only way to be able to make decisions and contribute to those decisions as a collaboration.”

In the video conferencing world, numbers like the ones discussed here are amazing numbers. CERN’s self-managed deployment involves more than 20 VidyoRouters spanning the world and 11 VidyoGateways clustered in three locations across the network. Users may connect over wired or wireless connections, and they are able to have large
multi-user meetings. Don’t you agree that this is simply incredible?

Note: you can look at this data yourself on CERN’s public dashboard: http://avc-dashboard.web.cern.ch/Vidyo.

 

 

Maximize Workplace Collaboration with Visual Communications

Don’t know about you, but I often feel like I’m drowning in a sea of digitally communicated words!  Texts, emails, IMs and the like seem to have taken the place of actual conversations. Not only do our personal lives suffer from this, our workplace has transformed into a place where we constantly need to deal with the data driven craze–  as the inundation of electronically transmitted words — information, questions, issues all needing to be responded to ASAP – never seem to end.

But the workplace still appreciates and values face-to-face communications. Don’t you agree? Even more importantly, many organizations require face-to-face meetings with fellow colleagues occasionally, if not all the time. The benefits of face-to-face meetings stretch beyond making decisions on the fly, it also helps people adjust to emotional cues and allows for a better sense of team and relationship building for ultimately better business productivity.

Video conferencing in the workplace:
•  brings people together via face-to-face communications and nurtures a collaborative effort
•  ignites a collaborative culture where people and teams can feel comfortable visually sharing plans and exchanging ideas
•  fosters team and relationship building by encouraging individuals to visually share their vibrant personalities
•  resolves problems quicker and builds strong team chemistry

There are a myriad of reasons why slowly, but surely, face-to-face communications is making a huge comeback.  And no, we’re not talking about having to be physically present in order to have these great conversations.  More and more businesses are turning to high quality visual collaboration and communications via the Internet, 4G and other easily accessed networks, without having to spend a lot of money on equipment and infrastructure – and Vidyo is leading this revolution in terms of technological excellence and affordability.

A rapidly growing number of companies and organizations are already realizing the many benefits of Vidyo’s solution. Take KaBOOM! for example, a national nonprofit that envisions a great place to play within walking distance of every child—serving over 6.5 million children, engaging with over 1 million volunteers and have successfully built or improved over 15 thousand playgrounds in America. You can only imagine the massive scale of collaboration needed to communicate with everyone involved in each project. Vidyo has transformed the KaBOOM! conferencing dynamic. The result is reduced costs, more productive and efficient project meetings, and a quicker and more powerful human connection for the team. Or take Concern Worldwide, an international charity, fighting world poverty, that connects humanitarian aid workers in 24 countries.  Vidyo helps connect 2,200 Concern Worldwide personnel to be able to instantly, clearly and affordably communicate and collaborate visually with field managers in some of the most remote locations in the world.

Collaboration is imperative to success. Whether it’s building a playground for a community or connecting charitable people around the world – video communications in the workplace is making a world of difference.

But, don’t just take my word for it! If you register for Vidyo’s upcoming webinar, you will hear, firsthand, from Vidyo’s CEO, Ofer Shapiro, and our featured speakers, David S. Maldow, Esq. and Howard S. Lichtman, from Telepresence Options, “Why Video Collaboration Will Make Audio-Conferencing Extinct.” Whether you agree or disagree with this premise, we’re certain that this will be a spirited conversation between our presenters … one that you can’t afford to miss!

 

VidyoWorks™ – It’s All About the Platform

The last two weeks were very busy with product news and strategic win announcements for Vidyo:  Important partnerships with the likes of Mitel, Arkadin and CTN, a gigantic win with CERN, and of course exciting news about VidyoConferencing 3.0, featuring major usability enhancements and innovations throughout the Vidyo portfolio including a new Microsoft Lync Integration.  Now, today, we have jointly announced with Ricoh, the U.S. availability of a sleek, portable, light-weight Vidyo-based videoconferencing system that’s the size of a notebook!

So why are all of these announcements significant and what do they have to do with each other? It’s all about a platform that scales! The affordability and innovation enabled by the VidyoWorks APIs has sparked the interest and imagination of a wide range of companies and organizations looking for a solution that satisfies all of their visual collaboration modalities – not just some of them – and does it at a cost that is comparable to voice services.  As the growing number of important Vidyo partners indicates, Vidyo has demonstrated its strength and leadership, not only in terms of technological innovation, but also in its ability to forge new roads in the marketplace that allow our customers and partners access to a level of scalability and geographical distribution that has never before been achieved affordably and with such high quality. By doing so, Vidyo has upped the ante for every video conferencing vendor in the world. Now every significant player is trying to develop a scalable video coding (SVC) strategy. SVC is much more than a compression standard, it allows for a new architecture, which Vidyo has perfected for years from both product and intellectual property perspectives. We welcome these new offerings into the SVC-enabled world as we continue to lead with our field-proven products.

Everywhere you look, it seems, there are new and exciting examples of Vidyo products and services.  Since last week, alone, we have made several impressive announcements: a Vidyo/Arkadin-powered web-based service deployed by the California Telehealth Network that will improve healthcare to patients in rural California, a partnership with Mitel that will result in the integration of Vidyo’s HD video and telepresence solutions across their entire line of unified communications and collaborations (UCC) products, and yet another example of a global cloud-based video conferencing solution, with the unveiling of the P3000 from Ricoh, an important Vidyo partner in the US.

After a very long wait, the visual communication revolution is finally here and we are so proud to be at the heart of it. We would like to thank all of our great customers, partners, investors and, of course, our dedicated and talented employees who have made all of this possible.

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Disclaimer: Many of the products and features described herein remain in varying stages of development and will be offered on a when-and-if available basis. The product plans, specifications, and descriptions are provided for information only and are subject to change without notice, and are provided without warranty of any kind, express or implied.  Vidyo reserves the right to modify future product plans at any time.

Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo co-founder and CEO, has been an innovative force at the heart of major architectural transformations in the videoconferencing industry since 1996. He was integrally involved in the development of the H.323 specification and the first IP based multi-point control unit architecture and gatekeepers, developed the use of H.264 Scalable Video Coding (SVC) for video conferencing, and led the development of a new media relay based architecture- the VidyoRouter. Ofer is a named inventor on 40 issued and 28 pending patent families. He was named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, and received the Wall Street Journal Innovation Award for Disruption in the category of Internet, Networking and Broadband. 

 

 

 

VidyoConferencing: Perfect Fit for Career Training

It’s an exciting time for graduates and the education community, not only do they face an improved job market, advancements in technology provide new avenues to expand and improve career training programs. During the next few weeks, community colleges will be applying for TAACCCT grants.  As they think about creating and expanding partnerships between community colleges and businesses to educate and train the new workforce with skills employers need, they will consider new technologies to enhance industry engagements between students and employers. And Vidyo, will be prepared to help them with our FIS team (fis@vidyo.com).

VidyoConferencing is the perfect fit for career training needs. Vidyo brings a seamless visual communications solution to any program. It provides a platform that connects:

  • students to instructors
  • students to industry
  • students to students
  • students to workforce development
  • instructor to expert
  • instructor to industry
  • instructor to instructor
  • instructor to researcher

The result is that VidyoConferencing provides the industry with the ability to connect their workforce with degree and certification programs that allow for career growth and development.

VidyoConferencing is a software-based visual communications solution that makes the most of the investment that people have already made in endpoints and devices. It brings an affordable, easy-to-use videoconferencing platform to the distance learning room, PC, tablet and smartphone. And existing infrastructure investments in network and security can be harnessed without disruption. Vidyo easily connects to legacy equipment while using less bandwidth and provides dynamic adaptation across the network.

VidyoConferencing is used by higher education facilities for the delivery of course work and training, mentoring and leadership networks, career counseling and interviews, virtual job fairs, workforce and research collaboration, and student recruitment.

And recently, Vidyo announced its partnership with Internet2 to offer Net+ Vidyo services for access by member universities and thousands of
K-12 schools.

Vidyo meets and exceeds the needs of a learning networks while helping community colleges meet the requirements of TAACCCT. With VidyoConferencing, a community college can:

  • deliver distance learning within an industry and across a county, region, state or national network, providing greater access for students who can participate from work or home while eliminating commute cost and time
  • bring experts into the classroom, and connect what is happening in the classroom to what is needed in the targeted industry
  • connect to industry partners and collaborate with research universities to develop curriculum
  • connect community colleges and technical colleges with past TAACCCT awardees – this is essential to building out successful programs and developing leadership networks in the area of career readiness
  • build a platform that provides for student recruitment, job interviewing and placement, and virtual job and career
    fairs
  • provide greater access for creating mentoring networks connecting students, instructors and industry experts who
    can connect from their offices or homes

As community colleges build their TAACCCT program proposal, they may contact fis@vidyo.com for more information.

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Marty Hollander is Vidyo’s SVP of Market Development. With more than 20 years of high-tech marketing experience, Marty specializes in developing lasting strategic assets through creative market development. Previously, Marty served as Vice President of Marketing at Cemaphore Systems, Latitude Communications (later acquired by Cisco) and ProactiveNet (later acquired by BMC). He also founded CollectiveSpace and IntelliCorp, where he played a variety of executive roles. Marty has also held senior level positions at Silicon Graphics and Storm Technology. Marty earned an MBA from Stanford University as well as an MS from Carnegie-Mellon University.

Vidyo Announces General Availability of VidyoGateway Virtual Edition (VE) and New Software Version 2.2.2

It’s an exciting time for Vidyo and all of its new and existing customers from around the world. We are pleased to announce the general availability of VidyoGateway Virtual Edition and access to download the new Vidyo Software Version 2.2.2, which includes new Vidyo enhancements at no-charge upgrades to Vidyo customers.

The recent announcement of the VidyoGateway and VidyoPortal Virtual Editions (VE) in March completes the virtualization of Vidyo’s core infrastructure and opens the door to mass adoption by offering enterprise customers and service providers high quality, scalable video conferencing at audio conferencing price points. Vidyo’s customers and service provider partners can now realize the significant cost savings, ease of administration and efficiency improvements of virtualization without the performance constraints that have previously plagued hardware-based, MCU solutions.

Available in both physical and virtual form factors, VidyoGateway integrates H.323 and SIP-based video conferencing equipment with the Vidyo infrastructure to extend the life of legacy systems as you deploy new Vidyo endpoints. Because calls through the VidyoGateway do not consume VidyoLine licenses, integration with legacy endpoints is both easy and affordable. VidyoGateway also enables voice integration for enterprise IP PBX systems with Vidyo deployment.

Additionally, Vidyo is releasing new features in its Vidyo Software Version 2.2.2. Features include: VMware Ready Certification for VidyoRouter, 6X HD decoding for its VidyoDesktop and VidyoReplay’s new support for Apple devices.

Reference Files

 

The new Google+ Hangouts

In recent days after the announcement of a new Google+ Hangouts platform, we’ve received many inquiries about just how Vidyo fits into the new solution. First, let me just say how excited we are about Google’s new communication platform. This cross device messaging approach, that connects Android, Chrome, Gmail and iOS alike, is a huge step in making the user experience as simple as can be, and that means wider adoption. It’s also further testament to the success the product has had and how visual communication is becoming an increasingly important part of the way people interact.

Some diligent bloggers have taken a look at the legal notices of the new Hangouts product and noticed that Vidyo’s patent notice is not there, which triggered a lot of rumors about Vidyo being ‘out’ of the Google+ Hangouts platform. Some people speculated that Google had replaced our technology for WebRTC. The truth is this was just an editorial oversight and the media technology in Google+ Hangouts did not change. Our partnership remains as strong as ever, and frankly, we couldn’t be happier. Hangouts is turning into a mainstream and useful form of communication which is in line with the trends we see across our business, from consumers to business applications.

 

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Ofer Shapiro, Vidyo co-founder and CEO, has been an innovative force at the heart of major architectural transformations in the videoconferencing industry since 1996. He was integrally involved in the development of the H.323 specification and the first IP based multi-point control unit architecture and gatekeepers, developed the use of H.264 Scalable Video Coding (SVC) for video conferencing, and led the development of a new media relay based architecture- the VidyoRouter. Ofer is a named inventor on 40 issued and 28 pending patent families. He was named a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, and received the Wall Street Journal Innovation Award for Disruption in the category of Internet, Networking and Broadband. 

 

 

Vidyo Makes Scientific Collaboration VISUALLY Compelling at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL)

If you haven’t been blown away sufficiently by some of the most recent Vidyo-related news you’ve read … here’s the latest on Vidyo’s never-ending list of WOW items! The preliminary phase of a nationwide communications system for scientific collaboration across academic, industrial and government partners has been recently completed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the largest science and energy national laboratory in the U.S. Department of Energy system. ORNL’s scientific programs focus on materials, neutron science, energy, high-performance computing, systems biology and national security.

So what does Vidyo have to do with this system that is now providing the core communications solution to connect such renowned institutions as ORNL, Los Alamos National Lab, Sandia National Lab, Idaho National Lab, MIT, NC State University, Westinghouse, University of Michigan, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)?

EVERYTHING!

Vidyo, in conjunction with Digital Video Enterprise (DVE) telepresence, helped develop the Virtual Office Community and Computing (VOCC) Laboratory that provides, real-time video and information exchange among a national science team engaged in the modeling and simulation of light water reactors (LWRs). The custom-designed Vidyo-DVE network is a unique telepresence and agile video collaboration environment that includes a massive, multipoint energy sciences exchange is able to link all types of endpoints, from tablets and smart devices to immersive telepresence rooms and visualization venues.

For the next phase of development, the VOCC Laboratory plans to continue the partnership with Vidyo to develop a scalable, affordable, secure, and interoperable telepresence that will support collaborative communication between the Department of Energy (DOE) Critical Materials Energy Innovation Hub and their biggest materials customer, the Department of Defense (DOD). The VOCC lab is piloting an effort to establish a multi-user collaboration community using a beta version DOD portal provided by Vidyo. The planned conferencing suite meets DOD Joint Interoperability Test Command’s (JITC) requirements, including related Defense Switch Network (DSN) and IPV6 interoperability requirements. Vidyo is the first software-based, telepresence-quality video conferencing solution to be JITC certified and is fully compatibility with H.323/SIP standards based end points and infrastructure.

For more details about this exciting announcement from ORNL, click here.

In My Opinion: Vidyo Goes Viral at Arizona State University

Big news for Vidyo, Inc. today in the academic world! Vidyo has partnered with Internet2, a member-owned advanced technology community founded by the nation’s leading higher education institutions, to create and provide a low-cost, subscription-based video communications service for all Internet2 university members and thousands of public K-12 schools in the United States. After a thorough trial run of the Vidyo-based solution at Arizona State, Emory and Northwestern Universities, the Vidyo NET+ Service is expected to be available for early adopter enrollments this May. Arizona State University was extremely influential making this happen; in fact, they sponsored Vidyo as a NET+ Service, based on the great experience they’ve had using Vidyo at ASU for the past several years. Accordingly, we could think of no one more appropriate to share their first-hand experience with Vidyo. The following is an account from Guy Mullins, ASU’s Director of New Media, Academic Technologies:

When we first introduced the use of Vidyo at ASU, it was for one particular purpose: a class at the School of Life Sciences in which our students in Tempe, Arizona communicated and collaborated with leading research scientists and experts from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s facilities on Barro Colorado Island, in the middle of the Panama Canal.  We needed a video communications solution that would allow students and faculty at ASU to connect easily and interact seamlessly with the Smithsonian experts in these remote tropical areas.  It was no small feat … but Vidyo well surpassed any of our expectations and news of this exceptional communications tool spread rapidly. Mainly through ‘word of mouth,’ we soon had others in our academic community requesting Vidyo and downloading the application.

To date, we’ve seen well over two thousand downloads of the Vidyo client application across our community. In terms of demand, we are about double the number of monthly client downloads over this same time last year.

With this in mind, we have started to look a bit more closely at who among our community are using Vidyo.

Based on our early analysis of our usage data mapped against our general user directories, it appears that Vidyo is still primarily a tool of the technical minded staff at ASU.  I anticipate that the next wave of adoption will come from faculty and researchers. Opening up this technology to a much broader range of users through simple-to-use and inexpensive Vidyo desktop tools, we’re finding many more rich, interesting, and innovative uses for video communications across our entire university and beyond.

We’re seeing scientists from a wide range of disciplines collaborate on research with their colleagues from around the world; we have expert guest lecturers being introduced remotely into our classrooms; field reports being filed by our broadcast journalism students; collaborations in the arts, theater, and more.  It is inspiring to see how a new technology can really have an impact in improving our teaching, learning, and research capabilities. Given the strong growth patterns of Vidyo usage , we believe we are only at the beginning of what is yet to come in terms of videoconferencing in the academic community. This global thinking has ironically also spawned some new ideas at home that we hope to explore soon; we’ve realized that our campus is large enough and diverse enough that we actually have numerous “field trip” opportunities we can engage in across campus – or even just down the hall – in which Vidyo can be utilized to bring hundreds of students into lab spaces, studios, research environments, and more.  We look forward to some of these “inside the box” approaches to deploying Vidyo to enhance our teaching and learning activities.

We are now averaging more than eleven hundred calls per month (1114 calls per month as of March 2013 – see above chart) either person-to-person or in collaborative group meetings.  That is far more than we were seeing just a short time ago, and arguably a ten–fold increase over any previous videoconferencing technology we’ve deployed in the past.  Again though, looking at our current rate of growth for Vidyo usage and adoption, I’m confident that in another year the numbers we’re seeing today will be relatively quaint by comparison.  The future of videoconferencing with Vidyo looks bright at ASU.

# # #

Guy Mullins, Director of New Media at ASU’s University Technology Office, has over 25 years of experience in higher education media production. A focus on documentary and research production combined with networking and social media collaboration, Guy’s work blends both traditional and emerging approaches to educational media applications. Guy has a B.A. from the University of Arizona, where his studies focused on Radio & Television; minor studies include Fine Arts and Business, and a M.Ed., Arizona State University, with an emphasis in Educational Media & Computers.


 

 

 

 

In My Opinion: What the 21st Century Classroom Looks Like

Not too long ago, my six-year-old daughter wanted to make a kite, so we opened up her laptop and searched “how to make a kite” on YouTube. We had several videos to choose from on the first page of results, and my daughter soon found one that suited her purpose. Within minutes she was collecting material and pressing pause during each step in the video as she followed directions. She could rewind or play the video as she progressed, and an hour later we were testing her kite outside.

Welcome to learning in the 21st Century. Today, students learn from peers, an online community, and experts who share their knowledge through traditional and online publishing resources. University students I work with have access to more information through their cellphones than I did in my entire library as an undergrad.

Smart phones are a wakeup call to educators. The days of constructing four walls with a podium at the front and calling it a school house are over. Today’s students are highly connected and consume information when and where it’s needed. New pushes in augmented reality, combined with the possibilities of hardware like Google Glass, will change the face of education as we know it.

Unfortunately, many educators tend to focus on testing memorization skills—think every multiple choice question you ever endured–but, as Socrates lamented when writing became popular, memorization is no longer important; and the testing of memorization skills is a significant distraction in education. This reliance on a historically structured curriculum leads to one right answer, as Sir Ken Robinson says, “at the back of the book,” rather than opening up the curriculum to multiple questions, ideally generated by the students themselves.

What society needs are people who can ask good questions, come up with creative solutions, critically examine those possibilities to figure out which one creative solution is most likely to be effective, and communicate that solution effectively enough to motivate others to action. Classrooms in the 21st century will take this into account. One step in this direction is the flipped classroom, in which students watch lectures and read course material outside of class, and use class time to engage with topics and course material through small group discussion or individual projects.

The 21st Century Classroom will be a place where students move up on Bloom’s taxonomy (the new version) beyond rote memorization skills to creation skills. These classrooms will be intellectually safe, comfortable places that encourage peer interaction and tactile connections with the material students are studying (virtual or physical) because these experiences inspire creative solutions and communication skills. Successful classrooms will facilitate networking, small group collaboration, and interaction with the subject of study.

These rooms will also be highly connected. Right now campuses have WiFi available but not in all classrooms and learning spaces. New technologies will allow students and instructors to stay connected constantly. Successful educators will be the ones who can connect learning material with the visual, tactile, and social aspects of the subject: e.g., connecting students with professionals who are successful in their respective fields.

Thanks to initiatives like TedTalks and Creative Commons, students have an unprecedented opportunity to listen to lectures from individuals who are the brightest minds in their field. Students also have the ability to securely attend classes through video they may have missed due to illness, or meet with scholars and practitioners virtually as a class through software like Vidyo. Location is no longer a barrier for those who are connected. If the traditional schoolhouse is a wooden building in a field, the 21st Century Classroom is Willie Wonka’s glass elevator, able to move sideways and slantways and even travel outside the factory. The instructor’s role has moved from content deliverer to experience facilitator.

In short, the 21st Century Classroom will be flexible and highly connective. Moveable, comfortable furniture will be important to encourage small group collaboration and communication. The ability to move furniture will also be important to incorporate new technologies as they develop because we don’t know when, where, and how much space this hardware will require. Connectivity through a media that allows as many types of learning as possible will be important as learning institutions seek to distinguish themselves. Learning institutions that thrive in the 21st Century will have classrooms that embrace the social, physical, and emotional aspects of learning.

My six-year-old is now seven, one year closer to higher education. She’s used to having simple questions answered by her computer, and
she’ll be expecting an engaging learning environment.

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Dr. Shawn Apostel is the Instructional Technology Specialist at Bellarmine University where he provides support to faculty and IT to facilitate online and classroom instruction that incorporates technology. Prior to his appointment, he served as the Communication Coordinator for the Noel Studio for Academic Creativity at Eastern Kentucky University and as the Information and Graphics Specialist for the City of Toccoa. He has a B.A. in Journalism, an M.A in Professional Communication from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University.

His research interests include teaching with technology, applied creativity, digital ethos, e-waste reduction, and visual communication. He serves as a reviewer for various journals and conferences. His work is published by IGI Global, CCDigital Press, Lexington Books, New Forums Press, and Computers and Composition Online. He co-edited Online Credibility and Digital Ethos: Evaluating Computer-Mediated Communication which was published by IGI Global in December 2012, and co-authored book Teaching Creative Thinking: A New Pedagogy for the 21st Century which was published by New Forums Press in Spring 2013.