Mar 27 2017

New Tool from Cisco Sparks Innovative Collaboration in Higher Ed Classrooms

Cisco Spark Board could allow colleges to collaborate more easily.

Collaboration on college campuses can lead to fantastic innovation. From facilitating social work to opening hands-on courses to students far away, technology has been the catalyst.

Now, a new tool from collaboration tech giant Cisco would allow for even more innovation. Earlier this year, Cisco introduced the Spark Board, a touch-based, three-in-one collaboration device for wireless presentation, whiteboarding and video conferencing.

The Spark Board features a 55-inch LED LCD screen, a 4K camera to capture a high-resolution view of an entire room, a 12-microphone array with automatic amplification of voices and capacitive touch, Campus Technology reports.

A perfect option for a class with in-person and online students, the Spark Board uses the Cisco Spark platform that is available for mobile devices and computers, Campus Technology reports.

“Everything created on the Cisco Spark Board can be stored in the cloud and associated with a virtual room. Using the Cisco Spark app, team members can pick up wherever they left off in the physical room and continue working wherever they want,” reads the Spark Board description on Cisco’s website.

Experts that have reviewed the Spark Board have found it to be a comparable option to the other collaborative whiteboards like Google Jamboard and Microsoft Surface Hub.

According to Campus Technology, the Spark Board boasts encryption to keep content secure, which could make it ideal for college research teams.

Collaboration Tech Makes a Better Classroom Experience

Ensuring that students who attend class virtually have an equal experience to those physically present is something those in higher education are working to address.

In an article on EdTech, John Bell of Michigan State University writes that telepresence robots have helped address some of this, but they have struggled with making sure the students can be heard and hear everything around them.

It seems the Spark Board may have a solution to this problem.

“The [Spark Board] audio quality is fantastic, not just for those in the room, but for the remote participants as well,” writes Nathan Coutinho, a director for unified communication and collaboration for CDW, in a blog.

“Ever since I started testing Spark Board for the last few months, people have been surprised at how good the audio quality is, even while I’m walking around the room or just sitting at my desk 7 feet away.”

Thanks to the Spark app, Coutinho writes, whiteboarding on the SparkBoard is even a collaborative experience for remote users. App users can not only see what is being written, but also add on themselves.

The collaborative cloud-based app Spark is not a new tool for many universities. Cisco’s Digital Education Platform, unveiled last year, combined Cisco Spark with WebEx, an online meeting and presentation platform, and universities have jumped on board.

Georgia State University tells EdScoop that the combination of Spark and WebEx has made for “better communication and collaboration, online office hours, and live lectures and speakers.”


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