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Acoustics And The Classroom

Benefits of Acoustic Panels in the Classroom

Classrooms are noisy; there’s no getting around it. The noise level in classrooms can average out to 65 decibels, which is only five decibels less than the level at which hearing may be impaired. So, while it’s unlikely students and instructors will suffer hearing damage from this environmental noise, a noisy classroom environment can be detrimental to the learning process in other ways. 

It’s a big problem, especially when you consider the expectations placed on today’s students. Colleges and universities are raising the bar on student performance and asking more of today’s students than ever before. Simultaneously, classrooms’ sound energy is becoming noisier as more and more institutions of higher learning embrace methodologies to enhance creativity, collaboration, and interactive teamwork. When students work in groups, the noise level can spiral out of control. It’s not unusual for students to struggle to hear the information they need against the unwanted competing noise. Here at Clarus, our products have just the solution. 

Here’s how that works. When there’s exterior noise – whether it’s students in the hallway or the group collaborating next to theirs – students and instructors have to speak louder to be heard. If their noise level is equal to that of the background noise, the speech recognition of the people around them will be around 40%. That means instructors and students must talk louder and louder to be heard and understood. To reach a level of 95% speech recognition, a person must speak 12 decibels louder than the background noise. According to the Acoustical Society of America, many classrooms have a speech intelligibility rating of 75% or less. 

Students acquire much of their information verbally. When speech intelligibility reduces, retention of information is greatly diminished. Their stress levels rise as they strain to try to make sense of what they’ve heard, making it even more difficult for them to track what’s going on and concentrate. All of these environmental noise factors combined can negatively impact students’ academic performance. 

So, what can higher education institutions do to provide an environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and productivity without increasing the noise level to the point where it harms learning? That’s where acoustics come in to play. 

Benefits of acoustics

Classrooms typically contain a multitude of smooth, hard surfaces – cabinets, desks, chalkboards, windows. Hard surfaces receive high marks for ease of cleaning, but they fail to maintain noise reduction. Hard surfaces increase reverberation, multiple sound waves overlap as they bounce off the hard surfaces and reflect into the room. Reverberation noise interferes with speech recognition by muddling the speech that reaches students’ ears. 

One of the easiest and most effective solutions to reducing environmental noise is to cover hard surfaces with soft materials that absorb noise. The standard for measuring noise absorption is the Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC), which ranges from 0.00 to  1.00, with 1.00 being the optimum in noise absorption. Materials with a rating of .75 or better are considered highly absorbent and produce the best sound reduction results.

Sound-absorbing wall panels can significantly improve acoustic performance in the classroom. For example, Clarus go! Mobile™ acoustic rolling glass whiteboards have an NRC rating of .80. That means they absorb 80% of the sound energy that comes in contact with them while reflecting back only 20% of that sound. Acoustic panels are most effective in managing reverberation noise. They also help reduce airborne noise (external noise originating outside the classroom) and impact noise (the sound caused by two structures impacting one another, such as a desk moving against the floor). 

Besides being excellent at absorbing sound transmission, Clarus go! Mobile acoustic rolling whiteboards offer other advantages. First of all, it’s a glass whiteboard that students can use during group collaboration sessions or creativity exercises. Plus, it can be used as a mobile room divider that provides privacy and separation from other groups when needed. And, with 13 colors to choose from, a Clarus go! Mobile acoustic rolling whiteboard can add a pop of color and energy to the classroom. Check out the go! Mobile video below. 

Proper acoustics in the classroom can improve speech intelligibility, reduce stress, and improve a sense of well-being for students and instructors. The acoustics make the classroom sound energy more conducive to learning while drowning out the unwanted noise, giving students a better shot at academic success. And, after all, that’s the top priority of any college or university!

Check out more information on glass boards at Clarus for helpful tidbits on how to clean a dry erase board or if chalk markers on glass are the right choice for you!