Singapore Management University Advances Hybrid Education with TeamConnect Ceiling 2
A premier university in Asia, the Singapore Management University (SMU) is internationally recognized for its world-class research and distinguished teaching. Established in 2000, SMU’s mission is to generate leading-edge research with global impact and to produce broad-based, creative and entrepreneurial leaders for the knowledge-based economy. SMU is known for its highly interactive, collaborative and project-based approach to learning.
In their approach to hybrid teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic, SMU's Learning Space Technology Services (LSTS) team found that online students were having trouble hearing in-class discussions. Temporary equipment was installed to improve audio quality, but the need to find a long-term solution to enhance spontaneous discussions among instructors and students from different zones became apparent. While additional handheld microphones were considered, they could inhibit active participation. Other expensive solutions like installing buttons and boundary microphones for every seat were also ruled out due to high investment and infrastructure constraints.
Sennheiser offered an innovative solution that met two critical requirements: ensuring clear audio for online participants and enabling instructors to teach without straining their voices. After a successful Proof-of-Concept (POC) phase, the LSTS team rolled out the Classroom Ceiling Microphone Improvement Project - 110 units of TeamConnect Ceiling 2 (TCC2) were installed in 35 rooms across the campus, providing voice amplification and ensuring a clear audio experience for all. This solution allowed SMU to maintain professional audio quality while fostering classroom interaction for both online and in-person classes.
“The outstanding audio quality and easy installation of TeamConnect Ceiling 2 checked all the boxes for our project requirements. The deployment was seamless thanks to the expertise and efficiency of Electro-Acoustics Systems from the proof-of-concept phase to completion. We are excited to implement new technology and it was a pleasant experience working with the different stakeholders involved.”
Singapore Management University (SMU) has always been a vibrant hub of learning. When the pandemic hit, the university faced a unique challenge when it came to hybrid teaching. TeamConnect Ceiling 2 ceiling microphones were chosen as a hands-free solution to minimize cross-contamination in classrooms and maximize audio quality for students attending classes in-person as well as online.
Singapore Management University (SMU) has a diverse student body of over 13,000 students enrolled in various programs and professional certifications. The Learning Space Technology Services (LSTS) team, a part of the Office of Integrated Information Technology Services, is responsible for handling classroom technologies, including the deployment of new solutions for hybrid teaching. The team has been instrumental in implementing new technologies during the pandemic to support hybrid teaching.
One issue that was frequently brought up was that online students had difficulty hearing the in-class discussions. To address this, the LSTS team installed temporary equipment to improve audio quality during class. While the issues were resolved, it was clear that this was not a sustainable long-term solution.
The requirement was to record spontaneous discussions between instructors and students seated at different zones and distances from each other. The team from SMU was already familiar with Sennheiser microphone solutions, having deployed multiple generations of wireless microphone systems. Over the years, there have been active engagements between SMU and Sennheiser, with a mutual interest in partnership and new technologies. The LSTS team therefore considered the use of additional SpeechLine Digital Wireless (SLDW) handheld microphones, which can be passed around during class discussions. However, the passing of microphones like a baton may take away the “active participation” element and may even discourage some students from speaking up. Other considerations were to install buttons and boundary microphones for every seat in class, but the investment was too high, and the existing infrastructure did not allow for that. Eventually after evaluations amongst the management and team, the ceiling microphone solution was chosen.
Successful Proof-of-Concept Phase for Classroom Ceiling Microphone Improvement Project
The LSTS team conducted a Proof of Concept (POC) phase over two weeks, during which they invited instructors and staff to join in the evaluation. The POC was conducted in three seminar rooms in SMU, two were used for conducting an “audio blind test” of the ceiling microphones being evaluated, with a different brand in each room. Participants experienced the quality of the voicelift solutions put forward by both manufacturers. They also understood more about the setups proposed and had the opportunity to evaluate the playback of the online audio. They could hear the online microphone audio quality from the other two seminar rooms, as the audio material was being projected to the third seminar room, from laptop to earphones, as well as frontal speakers to the room.
The participants were happy with the Sennheiser solution, and with those positive results, the LSTS Team then proceeded with the Classroom Ceiling Microphone Improvement Project. The project consists of 110 units of TeamConnect Ceiling 2 in 35 rooms across the campus. These ceiling microphones feature TruVoicelift, Sennheiser’s approach to voice amplification, suited for the instructors who teach in larger rooms as it ensures a clear audio experience for all online participants. The classes continue to have professional audio quality, whilst maintaining classroom interaction for both online and in-person classes.
Why TCC2 Is the Perfect Fit for SMU
Sennheiser’s TeamConnect Ceiling 2 has unique features that differentiate it from other microphones:
- The TruVoicelift feature allows participants to significantly increase speech amplification on-site and enables them to be heard loudly and clearly in the seminar room without handheld microphones. Therefore, the speaker does not have to raise his voice and can speak at a comfortable level.
- With TCC 2’s patented automatic dynamic beamforming technology, the microphone can track the position of the person speaking. This gives the speaker maximum freedom of movement in the room without compromising the audibility. For students participating remotely, the technology allows them to remain engaged during the session and follow conversations between the faculty and students in the room.
- The ceiling microphone is easy to install and monitor with Sennheiser Control Cockpit. The software provides efficiency for on-site engineers through digital workflows, with the ability to manage the system from the backend using their laptops and mobile devices. This also allows the engineers to render assistance swiftly when required and provide timely maintenance through firmware updates.
Integrating TCC2 Into SMU's Ecosystem: A Seamless Design
The new installation has certainly raised the bar for in-class and hybrid audio quality in SMU’s seminar rooms, which experience a high occupancy of up to 15 hours of classes per day. Aside from the TCC2 ceiling microphones, the design was also seamlessly integrated with Sony pan-tilt-zoom cameras, Biamp digital signal processors and Soundtube ceiling speakers. The hands-free concept reduced reliance on wireless microphones, minimizing contact points for hygiene and equipment damage for longevity. The SMU’s investment in premium technology enables it to continually provide a world-class experience for its students and faculty.
Learn more about TruVoicelift.
Learn more about automatic dynamic beamforming.