29.05.19

Flexible AV: University of Leeds

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The University of Leeds is embracing flexible AV systems for new learning methods. Reece Webb finds out more.

Universities often pride themselves on being at the forefront of innovation and the same is true for the spaces used inside these institutions.

The University of Leeds in the UK, one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK, decided that it wanted to explore the concept of flexible spaces, a method that is starting to gain traction in universities across the world.

The university set requirements for two new lecture theatres in its business school that broke the traditional mould of lecture spaces.

The business school required the two rooms to be both flexible and creative with regards to teaching style.

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Enter Universal AV Services, a UK based integrator which has built a strong relationship with the University of Leeds over 25 years.

The company providing the initial consultancy support on the project.

Nick Fitzpatrick, managing director of Universal AV Services said: “We were acting on a consulting basis for several organisations and a couple of years ago we designed a hundred seat collaboration space with the university which had been greatly received.”

Fitzpatrick added: “Because we previously designed a 100-seat space that people were using to the max, the university wanted a space that was for smaller groups that could provide the same experience.”

Universal AV’s consultants were engaged with the university’s innovation team throughout the project, trialling products to find a common approach to deliver the system that the university needed.

“It’s centred around using apps as a way to navigate the systems which people using every day on the phones and tablets. People just want simple products to use”- Nick Fitzpatrick, Universal AV Services
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Universal AV Services made clear that two spaces, one large and one small with differing needs would have to be specified.

Fitzpatrick clarifies: “They both have 30 seats. One’s what we call a fixed collaborative space, and the other is a flexible, collaborative space. They were built on the didactic style of the university standard that encompasses the expanded teaching experience. A standard, conventional lecture can take place, but bi-directional collaboration can also take place.”

The flexible design allows students to work in small groups or as a whole.

One room, a G.07 collaboration suite, was designed to host collaborative tables with fixed displays while the additional collaboration room features fixed interactive screens with an informal seating cluster to promote the use of touch technology. Both rooms also feature a traditional teaching podium at the front, at the request of academic feedback.

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Universal AV decided to use a Clevertouch screen system, using Clevertouch 15465PRO 65-in pro IR touch screens to meet the university’s required levels of functionality, with control provided by an Extron control system.

The fixed collaborative space has Clevertouch 48-in displays on a Top-Tec table with five seats, with a Panasonic 48-inch display which allows for bi-directional collaboration.

The fixed collaborative space is not designed to be an interactive space.

Fitzpatrick added: “At each station you've got the ability to have a dedicated PC hardwired to connect any device and we also have bring your own device technology.”

Universal AV decided to use the Clevertouch system because of its user-friendly approach to navigation.

Fitzpatrick said: “It’s centred around using apps as a way to navigate the systems which people using every day on the phones and tablets. People just want simple products to use”

A loan system was installed by Universal AV, which a user group tested before the full rollout.

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Fitzpatrick comments: “The user group liked the Clevertouch 2nd model dongle connectivity, allowing for app based and hardware-based connectivity.”

Audio Technica failsafe ceiling mics were installed with a Univox induction loop system alongside a Beyer Dynamic MPR21 boundary microphone, Extron SM28 speakers and FF220T speakers.

In the second space, self-seating was used rather than fixed furniture, allowing for a more flexible approach.

“We can change the way that we want to do things, we can interact, we can come in in small groups, and take the furniture out.

Universal AV took a flexible approach to the mounting of the displays it installed, allowing the Clevertouch displays to be wall mounted on Clevertouch height adjustable mounts. This allows the room to be adapted for different purposes, unlike a conventional lecture space.

Fitzpatrick plans to wait and see what space the University finds most useful. He explains: “The initial takeup’s been very good. For future use, we'll see whether they go down a flexible route or a fixed route.” 

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The project ran over a four-month period in the summer of 2018, working closely with the University’s enhancement and innovation team. During the installation process, Universal AV did not encounter any delays or challenges that affected the installation.

Universal AV are also responsible for tech maintenance and support at the university. Fitzpatrick said: “We support all our installations and we’ve been a partner of the university for many years, so we do support them should they need it.”

While the team would not have done anything differently on the project, Universal AV is awaiting user feedback from the university and is willing to make changes as necessary. 

Fitzpatrick said: “We will see what the university says with regards to the advantages of one or two spaces and then the designs could change but it's probably too early to tell at this stage.

The project was finished on time and on budget, and Fitzpatrick believes that this flexible space design could be a key innovation in university spaces.

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Fitzpatrick explained: “Even though these two rooms are based on something that has been successfully done, the project was pushing the boundaries to see whether flexible space is a better solution over fixed space, but only time will tell.

“The university has engaged us on other projects following this one, so the relationship is strong.”

Looking to the future, Universal AV Services intends to build on its long-standing relationship with the University of Leeds, with another project for the university already in the pipeline due to begin at the end of the year.

Fitzpatrick clarified: “we're doing another project for the university that has three flexible collaboration spaces that they’re trialling in another department.”

Collaboration spaces could go on to be hallmarks of university spaces with Fitzpatrick highlighting a trend towards the adoption of collaborative spaces in universities and foresees the innovative design of collaboration spaces as a strong area of growth for Universal AV.

Fitzpatrick has the final word: “We've been very much at the forefront of its adoption and we see it as a specialism that we can deliver, whether it be 30 seats, 100 seats or more.”

Kit List 

Audio

Extron

SM28 and FF220T loudspeakers

XPA2003C and MDA3A amplifiers

Beyerdynamic MPR211 microphone

Univox induction loop system

Audio Technica failsafe ceiling mic

Control

Extron 1542331 electrical wall mount, TLP PRO 720M touch panel, DTP extension system, Ebus Panel, processing and control system, TP Link network switch

Clevertouch 1541046/1 android module

Netgear GS108PE network switch

Sonic Foundry Mediasite RL lecture capture

Video

Clevertouch 15465PRO 65-in Pro IR Touch

Apple TV 4K 32GB display

Panasonic PT-RZ370 projector, TH-48LFE8 48-in display

Sapphire electric screen

Stone NUC PC

Iiyama PC monitor

Accessories

Clevertouch

1541052 2ND EDITION DONGLE

Height adjustable wall mount

Top-Tec

Collaborative tables