AV in Education: Higher Ed Grows Faster at Sahara

The below is taken from AV Magazine, avinteractive.com http://saharaplc.com/track.aspx?id=0qkm8batuv.

Sahara is growing quickly in higher and further education after recognising that its needs have much more in common with the corporate market than with schools, writes Lindsey Reynolds.

"We've seen huge growth in higher education and further education (HEFE) of around 200 per cent this yer," says Shaun Marklew, sales and marketing director at Sahara Presentation Systems, a leading distributor of collaboration and AV products, including Epson, NEC, Hitachi and now BenQ, and also the manufacturer of the Clevertouch range of interactive touchscreens.

"We've long been a leader in schools and have successfully expanded into corporates," Marklew says, "Our recent success in HEFE has come from recognising that it has more in common with the corporate market than with schools."

Marklew says Sahara created the Clevertouch Pro interactive touchscreen specifically for HEFE and corporates. "It has a look and feel that's a long way from the bright and colourful school interface and has tools for enhanced collaboration; you can flick content from your mobile device to the screen, mirror cast, air play, and pull content from the screen to your devices."

Also designed for the corporate sector but finding real traction in HEFE are the wePresent presentation tool and Montage wireless presentation system for easy in- and out-of-the-room wireless collaboration.

"HEFE is leading the way in huddle meeting spaces," Marklew adds, "and it represents more than half our sales of Montage." This is not surprising, as "millennials expect to have fast Wi-Fi everywhere and to use their own mobile devices - universities are responding to that".

Marklew says schools re also being led by what children do at home. "Kids don't save their files to disk at home or use email. They store content in the cloud and communicate using messaging apps. Schools respond to this. Primary and secondary schools are enthusiastic users of Google managed services and Microsoft 365 - more so than corporates."

Digital collaboration comes naturally to children and is integral to education today but what does the future hold?

Cloud integration is a major trend for collaboration across education. Clevertouch is already integrated with the cloud, with embedded Android and access to Google's G Suite (Gmail, Docs, Drive and Calendar).

"We've already embraced software, which was traditionally a tough sell for AV distributors and resellers," says Marklew. " And we're learning how to sell services successfully, like the cloud, and training and support. Schools frequently have no training budget, and while we can provide interactive products, teachers may not feel comfortable with the technology and acquire a deep knowledge of its capabilities or how to integrate it in the curriculum without training. We are highly focused on helping schools make training ongoing."

Elizabeth Woodville Primary school in Leicestershire and Denbigh High School in Luton, Bedfordshire are examples of good practice in training. When Elizabeth Woodville put Clevertouch into all classrooms, the school first let staff and pupils play with the devices, to experiment and try them out. The intuitive interface meant no training was needed at the outset. Sahara then provided training every two weeks to help teachers deepen their knowledge of Clevertouch's capabilities, which has proven more useful and enlightening than the school imagined it would. The school has since continued the learning process to find new ways to use the technology for sharing and evaluative work.

At Denbigh High School pupils teach the teachers through a Digital Leader programme. "The school asked us for additional licences for the Snowflake interactive software that comes with Clevertouch to install on their laptops," says Marklew. "Their Digital Leaders, tech-savvy pupils willing to share their knowledge and help lead how technology is used in schools, learned the software and trained the staff and students."

The next revolution could be in how technology is bought, Marklew suggests. "We're looking at a managed service model where a school pays a monthly subscription, which wraps training and support with the kit. Not only is technology changing rapidly, schools rarely have funding to install the latest into all rooms. Managed services could change that, and give schools peace of mind, knowing they have all the support they need built in."

So is this likely to be a Sahara service in the future?

"We're researching the process at present," says Marklew. "But watch this space."


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Published by Sahara AV on 06 April 2017

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