Immersive learning at Wilmington virtual learning environment

Remote learning requires something truly innovative to engage audiences around the world. Reece Webb discovers how Wilmington’s new virtual learning environment revolutionises the remote teaching experience.

Creating an immersive learning experience can be difficult behind a screen, but with Wilmington’s new virtual learning studio, Vanti delivered an all-encompassing teaching environment that combines immersive audio with engaging visual displays.

This was a project born out of the pandemic. With Covid-19 forcing educational institutions across the globe to reorientate their services to support remote audiences, Wilmington, an organisation that specialises in outsourced training and education for a broad base of customers ranging from healthcare and corporate to financial service providers, required a new space to meet the challenges of remote teaching head on.

To overhaul Wilmington’s workflow for the hybrid working and remote learning age, the company turned to AV integrator Vanti to redesign and integrate a new virtual learning space that steers away from a Zoom-centric environment.

Raj Patel, technical director, Vanti, explains: “This was a bespoke design and build process. Wilmington got in touch with us as it had just moved to a new office. We had supplied the AV system for their office, and it needed the right partner for a complicated project [the virtual learning environment].”

Wilmington required a training room that offered remote participants an engaging experience as similar to an in-person experience as possible. Patel continues: “Normally, Wilmington’s trainers travel all over the world but because of the pandemic, its staff were unable to fly and provide training except over Zooms or Teams. This works for small groups, but Wilmington believed that the end user experience was not up to the same standard for in-person training.

“Coming out of the pandemic, it wanted to know how it could move forward. It didn’t know what the system would be or what the options were so we came on board to help them figure out what they could do, exploring various options with them.”

The objective was to craft a training space that offered an experience for remote attendees that was as close to a real interaction as possible by providing easy, realistic interaction for both participants and lecturers. The finished system comprises a digital classroom studio environment supported by an adjacent control room.

The design for the studio called for something special. Vanti began by creating a 3D model of the proposed space and specifying a platform that was up to the challenge.

At its heart, the system required a platform that offered slick presentation combined with a space that engaged both the lecturer and attendees. Patel explains: “We started with picking a platform and after investigating different ways of doing it, we decided quickly to use the Barco weConnect platform. We had several demos with them to establish if the platform would work and set up some demo kit as a proof of concept.

“It was all about getting something that was more akin to a classroom [than a video call]. We needed to get to a point where the experience is like being in the room of the presenter, sticking your hand up, asking questions and looking around. The weConnect platform aligned with that vision.”

The web-based weConnect system was chosen to meet the brief due to the production value offered by the system, allowing for visual mixing, high-quality audio with multiple microphones and green screen functionality, offering more than just a simple camera and microphone setup to engage participants.

Vanti took steps to become an accredited Barco reseller in order to provide the weConnect system for the client. Patel: “We got the engineering and design team together to undergo training. We became weConnect partners to set up [the system] properly. We put quite a few of our team members through the training to get an understanding for the product to get the right solution.”

The Barco platform’s built-in API allowed Vanti to build a Crestron-based control system alongside weConnect to handle in-room functions, working with the room-booking panels outside the room, RGB lighting reacting to highlight attendees asking questions and more.

To engage properly with attendees, Vanti installed a bespoke, curved videowall consisting of six Sony 65-in OLED screens, supported by Chief pop-out brackets for additional stability. The videowall offers high quality visuals with Ethernet connectivity, integrating with the control system. The videowall can be used as delegate displays in the Barco weConnect system, showing up to six delegates in three vertical banks.

A fixed Avonic camera is installed between every paired screen on the videowall to provide flexible viewing options. These cameras can alternatively be used to display other video content, such as when the weConnect system is not in use, during a video conference call.

Attendees can get close to the in-room experience through the clever use of angles. Patel clarifies: “If you’re a student, you can look at the feed from your ‘seat’ view [for an in-room perspective] or you can see a more general view produced by the vision mixer.”

The videowall also features three Samsung 32-in displays built into the base of the videowall, designed to be flexible in use. The producer of the session can select and send content through to the confidence monitors, showing camera feed, green screen output, presentation slides and more.

“It was all about getting something that was more akin to a classroom [than a video call]. We needed to get to a point where the experience is like being in the room of the presenter.” - Raj Patel, Vanti

Changing direction 

While offering realistic viewpoints is essential to creating a superior remote learning experience, no setup is complete without an equally competent audio system. For this project, Vanti supplied a bespoke directional audio system, offering an immersive experience not just for session attendees but for lecturers too.

Patel: “By creating a curved videowall, we had the option to create an immersive audio experience. A lot of the Vanti team come from the theatre and attractions industry so we believed this would be a nice touch. If you are presenting in the room and a student shouts out from the top right screen, you will notice where they are in the room and you will naturally turn your head in that direction, making interactions smooth and more natural. Within the videowall are custom Vantiproduced speakers with custom drivers that drive the audio experience.

“To get that audio working, we installed what appear to be grey bars. These bars are fabric-wrapped panels that are wrapped in speaker-grille cloth. Our custom-made speaker drivers are behind that. We fitted the drivers in the top, middle and bottom to provide the spatial audio experience. We also tried a new powder-coating technique, colour matched to our needs and fabric wrapped accordingly.”

Sennheiser Speechline headsets are provided for presenters, featuring digital encryption for secure communications during presentations.

Patel explains: “The headsets gave us some nice features that we could build into our control system. Producers have the option of overriding a muted microphone if they forget to switch it off from the control room via the control software. Likewise, if a battery on the headset is low, the control software on the desk will pop up with a battery warning message. That two-way monitoring is possible with the Sennheiser headsets, and the open protocol meant that it was easy to integrate with our bespoke control system.”

Additionally, Vanti provided Biamp Parle ceiling microphones to allow for contact-free presenting as an alternative to multiple presenters handling the same headset.

Patel explains: “We were originally going to use only the Sennheiser headsets, however, from a hygiene perspective, some presenters didn’t want to be coming in and out and swapping microphones around with the headsets, so we provided Biamp Parle ceiling microphone arrays to provide a second option because of Covid-19.”

Audio is controlled via a Biamp Tesiraforte digital audio server, running a Tesiraforte DSP with AVB switches. Each screen on the videowall runs on a separate PC, connected to a Barco weConnect node, featuring a Tesira USB interface to connect.

The room is also home to a TeamMate podium with two built-in iiyama touchscreens, customised by Vanti to meet Wilmington’s exacting requirements for a functional and aesthetically pleasing podium design. Vanti originally designed the podium with a flat touchscreen but changed to a dual screen design to better match the client’s needs.

Wilmington wanted a design without monitor arms due to the presenter’s presence on camera, using the podium as a desk.

Patel: “The presenters often work with dual screen PowerPoints. They like the idea of having a remote view and the PowerPoint on show, so we ended up remanufacturing the top [of the podium] to have that 3D dual monitor section. The iiyama touchscreens are connected into the system v ia Crestron NVX, routing the touchscreens, HDMI and USB over to the main PC in the studio’s control room.

“NVX gives us the option to be flexible as we can plug the podium in anywhere. You’ve got the podium and a Samsung Flip 2 whiteboard both on the TeamMate stand which is height adjustable. We made it so that these products can be plugged in anywhere to suit left or right-handed presenters. Because of NVX, everything plugs into a data port on the floor.”


In the control room, the studio is supported by a Roland vision mixer with a BlackMagic video SDI matrix for video, as well as a tvONE C2-750 scaler for the in-room green screen.

From design to completion, the project ran for a total of four months, generating positive feedback from the team at Wilmington.

Patel reflects: “I’m really proud of the team at Vanti for their work on this project. This is one that touched a lot of departments and people within the business, we needed to negotiate around mechanical systems, 3D model the space and also engaged our acousticians and speaker manufacturers for this project. In terms of how we delivered it, it was a really good project and there is nothing like it. It’s been a real game changer for them. We’ve created a platform which they can use to transform their business.”

Kit list


Biamp Parle in-ceiling microphones, Tesiraforte processors

Sennheiser Speechline headsets


Avonic CM22 PTZ cameras

Brightsign signage player

Chief display mounts (for videowall)

Iiyama T2234MC touchscreens

Samsung OM32H screens (used in videowalls), Flip 2 interactive whiteboard

 Sony BZ35F 65-in screens

 TeamMate podium

tvONE C2-750 HDMI/DVI scaler


Avonic CM22 PTZ cameras

Brightsign signage player

Creston NVX system

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