Staffordshire University CAMPUS TRANSFORMATION

The closure of the Beaconside Stafford campus in 2016 and the subsequent £40million investment in the transformation of the Stoke-on-Trent campus created exciting and challenging times for the Digital Services team at Staffordshire University and their chosen Integration Partner Pure Audio Visual Ltd.

The multi-million pound development includes a new Digital Kiln for computing and games design, incorporating state-of-the-art computer suites, 3D printers and a design studio. A new build teaching block enhanced student accommodation and upgrades to existing facilities across the campus.

The £425K audio visual project completed by Pure AV between April and September this year includes the design, installation and commissioning of around 40 teaching rooms, consisting of labs, lecture theatres and teaching spaces, along with the new social, collaboration space called the Digital Kiln.

CHALLENGES

With a summer installation scheduled, room plans, system designs and technology selections were on the point of being finalised, when the arrival in April 2016 of new Vice Chancellor Professor Liz Barnes introduced a new strategic vision for the University that required a complete change to the planned approach for the learning spaces in the Beacon Building.

The new rooms needed to move away from spaces for didactic teaching to support a more interactive, discursive style of learning in line with the Vice Chancellor’s vision of the Connected University.

There were challenges in technology selection with a need to identify an interactive touch panel that could be fully integrated and allow all content to be repeated across multiple screens within the learning space.

There were tight time scales as there was now only five months to complete the full delivery of the project including the delivery of the Digitial Kiln space and the redesign, installation and commissioning of the new rooms within the Beacon Building and Mellor Building and upgrades within the Cadman building.

The Digitial Kiln has received excellent feedback from both students and academics and is working as a bridge between formal and informal learning. It is supporting the Vice Chancellors’ concept of the “sticky campus”, with seamless opportunities for learning and the desire to extend learning beyond just the formal learning spaces.

The project has allowed the Digital Services team in partnership with Pure AV to rethink how they deliver and design technology in their learning spaces. It has established a new model for their teaching rooms that will be further rolled out across the broader campus.

Partnership has been key to the success of this project, as has careful consideration of the technology required for the learning spaces. Consultation with academics, students as well as with the digital services team has ensured that all equipment has a purpose and is in-line with the digital vision of the University. There is no pursuit of technology for technology’s sake.

Partnership and ongoing conversation is also supporting the future development of the learning spaces. The University working with Pure AV is actively reviewing; revising and developing the specification of the rooms for future roll out. This measured results based approach has already seen a three-fold increase in average room budget for new learning spaces.

PROJECT SCOPE

The full £425K audio visual project included:

12 NEW LEARNING SPACES IN THE BEACON BUILDING

10 NEW LEARNING SPACES IN THE MELLOR BUILDING

15 ROOM UPGRADES WITHIN THE CADMAN BUILDING

1 NEW DIGITAL KILN SOCIAL LEARNING SPACE

The room types included lecture theatres, computer labs, games design rooms, a boardroom and multiple learning spaces.

This case study will look more closely at two project areas: The Digital Kiln and the new learning spaces within the new build Beacon Building.

THE DIGITAL KILN

THE BRIEF

Create a dual purpose space that would support both formal and informal learning and provide a venue for events.

The design created by Pure AV has a 9 screen video wall at the front of the room and 6 collaborative workstations each with a 50” display positioned around the room. The screens at the collaborative workstations can be used independently or receive content broadcast from the video wall. Students are able to connect their own devices or use the technology provided by the University to work in groups, share ideas and develop projects. During events the smaller screens can be used to replicate or support the content displayed on the main video wall.

Pure AV used the Extron eBUS system to provide a linked control system. The advantage of this system is that students can work in a collaborative group and control their own local workspace by switching the display on and off, selecting an AV input and adjusting the volume of the display.

The eBUS system is linked back to the main Extron processor and using the Extron touch screen a presenter can take control of the entire system. The Extron processor then sits on the Global Configurator network which allows the University to monitor, maintain and if necessary take control of the system. The University chose the Kramer VIA Connect system to enable students to collaborate using wireless technology within the local workspace areas.

Another innovative feature of the design is the use of Soundtube Secret Sound products. The advantage this creates is that several groups can all be involved in their own projects, listening to media with audio whilst the overall ambience of the space remains reasonably quiet. This is a really great example of thinking outside the box to get a result from a product which wasn’t originally designed for the application.

When the Digital Kiln is used in presentation mode there is an audio system with twin line arrays and a sub bass. This ensures good even levels of sound and high levels of speech intelligibility throughout the space. The nine screen video wall is fed by three Datapath FX4 processors which provide unparalleled levels of image scaling, the result is spectacularly good image quality. The university can show images from a PC, Laptop and digital signage player.

Described by the Digital Services team at Staffordshire University as a “Social Collision Space”, the Digital Kiln has become part of the University’s strategy to extend learning beyond formal teaching spaces.

THE BEACON BUILDING

The impact of the Vice Chancellors’ new vision for the Connected University on plans for the Learning Spaces within the Beacon Building and the other campus buildings was instant and significant. Plans previously drawn up and technology selected had to be completely revisited.

With the result that the Digital Services team working in partnership with Pure AV had just 5 months to redesign the learning spaces, source additional technology and complete the installation and commissioning the Digital Kiln and around 40 rooms across 2 different buildings.

The redesign resulted in the establishment of two new models for interactive learning spaces; a typical collaborative learning space and a Node room. These are now being carried forward into other areas within the campus.

COLLABORATION ROOM

In a typical collaborative learning space in the Beacon Building the furniture is no longer in static rows with a single point for presentation. Students are seated in groups with furniture that is on wheels and can be easily reconfigured to suit the activity taking place. There are multiple repeater screens to ensure that content displayed can be easily viewed regardless of the direction of the seating and to contribute towards group activity.

The historical projector and lectern based presentation area has been replaced with a wall mounted 80” Sharp PN-80TC3 interactive touch screen. The lectern has been made smaller and been positioned against the wall, so that it serves as a cabinet and site for a visualiser, rather than as a point from which to deliver the session. There is an in-room PC and input plate with dedicated USB touch port, so that if the tutor choses to bring their own laptop or connect a student laptop, the control and delivery of content can still be managed via the Sharp interactive screen.

Behind the system is an Extron switcher scaler and Extron stereo speakers. A 7” touch panel on the mini lectern provides the user interface for turning the system on and off and volume controls. This is also linked into the Extron GVE server, allowing the Digital Services team to remotely monitor and manage the learning space. IP cameras and boundary microphones are in place ready to support the future roll out of lecture capture and stereo speakers are in place for program audio. In larger rooms voice reinforcement is also deployed along with a greater number of repeater screens.

There is a deliberate mix of high technology and “low technology” within the room designs. Alongside the interactive screens and large format displays there are also high quality glass writing boards and each room has a 42”SMART Kapp electronic flip chart. These tools offer the ability for individuals and groups to articulate and develop ideas very quickly and encourage active participation and physical movement around the learning space.

NODE ROOMS

The design of a reduced size lectern positioned against the wall and the use of an 80” Sharp interactive touch screen as the main content delivery tool is carried over into the design of the Node Rooms with the most obvious difference between the two types of room evident in the choice of furniture.

There are individual chairs for each student with their own desk space built in. They are on wheels allowing the room to be configured and reconfigured as the learning session develops.

With various writing surfaces including SMART Kapp digital flipcharts on trolleys, mcSquares whiteboard tiles and glass writing boards, the space becomes completely dynamic and switching between whole group learning and individual or group activity is quick and easy. The interactive and audio visual tools in these rooms are quite simplistic, but their application and the combination of digital and non-digital tools to create opportunities for group interaction are producing great results.

The student experience is a really important part of a modern university’s business and to ensure that we are giving our students an exceptional one, our investment in our learning spaces is key.
It’s been a delight as we’ve walked round the building to see the students and staff starting to use the new technologies. The one thing I really like to see as I’m walking through the building is that the tutor isn’t necessarily stuck to the front of the room, they can move around the space and go and have a conversation with a student, and you quite often see them sat down with students working away. It creates a really engaging environment for the students to learn in.
Pure AV was our selected integrator for this project and we’ve worked very closely with them across the past 6/7 months to design and deliver the Beacon Building and the rest of the campus transformation.
It’s been incredibly challenging because the specification changed significantly. The team at Pure were really helpful, they were on the case straight away with us and nothing seemed to be too much of a problem. All of the demands that we have made of Pure have been met, the building opened on time and everything was working, and that in our view was quite exceptional.

SIMON BIRKETT, IT & LEARNING TECHNOLOGY MANAGER, STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY

362 Leach Place, Walton Summit, Preston, PR5 8AS

0845 602 2861

info@pureav.co.uk

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PURE AV Di Gaetano
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