Professional audio has been an important part of higher education spend for some time. Over recent years, the growth of remote learning and lecture capture has been a key driver of growth. However, a broader focus on improving facilities has also provided positivity.
Greater competition between HE institutions themselves has played a factor in both of these trends.
The rise of purely remote course providers has created significant competition for applicants across higher education: for traditional institutions, this has increased the importance of both the physical facility as a point of differentiation, but also the use of remote learning as an essential tool for student engagement. Audio plays a critical role in improving both and has shown significant growth as a direct result.
When thinking of an institutional audio strategy, both facility quality and the quality of lecture/seminar capture have become top priority. An audio system is no longer just used for sound reinforcement and signal paths have become far more complex. As well as being more complex and requiring additional devices to support the new use case, lecture capture is helping to increase overall budget for audio equipment. The quality of remote engagement has become more important than ever and the quality of audio devices used is critical to providing recordings or live streams with high production value. This has driven significant upgrades and new purchases for pro audio over recent years, whilst increasing the overall importance of an effective pro audio strategy amongst institutions.
Moving into 2020, the outbreak of COVID-19 caused the rapid acceleration of remote learning trends, and as a result, audio strategy has become an even more important consideration. For the pro audio industry, higher education has defied overall market performance and become a key area of positivity. Even during the depths of the pandemic, institutions have been investing significant amounts in audio to support higher quality lecture capture. This investment has not only considered the lecture capture component of audio but has increased emphasis on the entire audio signal chain, from microphones, recording equipment and sound reinforcement systems, to the DSP and audio over IP (AoIP) networks that support them.
At the same time as macro trends and remote learning requirements have provided recent value to the pro audio markets, innovation within audio itself has also been important to growth. Beamforming microphone technology has seen significant growth in higher education over recent years, now acting as a high quality, contact-free, flexible audio device for capturing presenters and even audience members wherever they are in the room. Meanwhile, improvements in the cost-effectiveness and functionality of DSP, as well as increases in the number of AoIP-enabled devices now available, has also provided significant opportunities for institutions looking to upgrade to a comprehensive and fully connected network of audio devices.
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, higher education has become an even more important market for professional audio brands. Some challenges lay ahead, with component shortages expected to hinder sales to some extent during 2021. However, the overall acceleration of remote learning trends has commenced a chain reaction of upgrades which will likely set a new standard for audio quality in higher education and lecture capture. Not only has this provided opportunity over the past year, these trends will also have long term ramifications for the importance of audio amongst institutions. Combining this with technology advancements and AoIP efficiency gains, higher education is expected to be an area marked for significant long-term professional audio growth.
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