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NEC Display Solutions Client Installation Education Rewriting the rules of learning University of Northampton Unhindered by

University of Northampton

Rewriting the rules of learning

Unhindered by legacy technology or outdated buildings, the University of Northampton has relocated to its brand new state of the art campus designed entirely around the future of higher education, without compromise. The result is a total rethink on how students learn, with a focus on student led collaboration and vast video wall presentation, supported by NEC displays and Hiperwall.

Previously operating from two sites to the north of the town and lacking the facilities to maintain a competitive offering to students in the future, the University of Northampton (UoN) sought to consolidate all departments within a new single campus close to the town centre. Part of a wider Enterprise Zone within Northampton, the 58 acre brownfield site offered exciting opportunities to exploit operational efficiencies whilst delivering a state of the art educational facility designed to adapt to 21st century teaching.

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The Challenge

The new £330m Waterside campus is entirely purpose-built with the exception of a repurposed Victorian shed now housing the students’ union. This ground up opportunity meant that the IT/AV teams were involved from the beginning, working side-by-side with the architect.

“The AV and the IT were not an afterthought once the builders were finished,”confirms Andrew Taylor, Digital Services Manager at the UoN.

“Having a blank canvas has allowed us to specify so much of the infrastructure that we wouldn’t normally get a say in; cable routes, wall construction etc. This all means we don’t have the traditional issues associated with a big build, which normally means having to compromise our designs to fit buildings. It’s allowed us to specify technologies and standards which should make maintenance and refresh a lot easier in the long run.”

This unique opportunity has enabled the university to rethink the delivery of teaching and the process of learning with a fresh new approach designed to stimulate learning and provide a more engaging environment.

The NEC Solution

“By standardising on NEC we can ensure a consistent, comfortable and confident user experience”

The vast project delivery was managed in partnership with systems integrator Kinly. With three main buildings in total, the university comprises 116 ‘teaching spaces’. There are no huge lecture theatres, just a single small auditorium of 80 seats. These smaller spaces are designed to encourage collaboration between students and tutors with sporadic gatherings encouraged wherever there is a display and space for seating. “Traditional large lecture theatres aren’t built for, nor encourage collaboration,” explains Taylor. “Typically, theatres are built with everyone facing forward. If you don’t understand something, you probably won’t want or won’t have the confidence to ask for a bit of extra help. That’s not an ideal environment.”

The university does not feature many of the traditional technologies found within learning environments. Gone are the projectors and their associated lamp replacement budget in favour of wall mounted NEC displays contributing to a saving of over £100k a year in consumables.

“We chose to standardise on NEC displays across all our teaching spaces. The NEC E Series offers a professional feature set and functionality to support our intensive teaching requiring continuous operation 12 hours a day. With superb reliability, NEC brings us the best product at the best price. By standardising on NEC we can ensure a consistent, comfortable and confident user experience across the entire campus and any maintenance requirements are far easier to handle.”

In each of the teaching spaces, students can view content on their own device and share to the main display. Equipped with a 70” or larger E Series display plus a smaller 43” display per group of 2-6 students, the focus is on collaborative small group learning supported by NEC wireless presentation capability. Depending on the size of the space, 50 further rooms are equipped with NEC E series sized 50” to 65”.

Wider campus communications also benefit from NEC visualisation as 150 NEC V Series sized 40” to 65” in both portrait and landscape are installed throughout to display content and social media feeds. One of many uses for this digital signage is for recognition of student output, turning the displays into a digital art gallery.

Within the Learning Hub and the Creative Hub buildings, three dramatic video walls each create a visual centre piece with two walls comprising 25 displays each in 5x5 configuration and another comprising 9 displays in a 3x3 configuration. The impressive digital surfaces deliver information on forthcoming events, student presentations at open days and support keynote speakers for conferencing. To drive a variety of content to the video walls, UoN chose NEC’s Hiperwall, its IP-based video wall content management system.

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“As a software solution, Hiperwall is so flexible and so easy to configure. We need to control the video walls on the fly, change feeds and bring in new streams; Hiperwall offers us a powerful solution which can be upgraded and expanded as needed.”

The highly user-friendly and intuitive Hiperwall user interface and architecture enables UoN to quickly and simply manage multiple content sources across its vast video wall estate, in real time.

The Result

Students and staff benefit from a far slicker approach to the teaching and learning process. Lecturers upload teaching materials in advance to the university’s virtual learning environment enabling students to connect and access class materials which are also viewable on the NEC displays. Taylor confirms: “It’s more enjoyable for our lecturers, who can focus on teaching, but it’s fantastic for our students who benefit from the more engaging, collaborative teaching style our platform supports.”

Across the entire deployment involving hundreds of NEC screens, Andrew Taylor noted that not once did they experience any quality concerns, “the reliability of NEC technology is one of the key reasons for choosing to standardise on this particular manufacturer, hardware failure has never been an issue. The support we receive is amazing, NEC has been brilliant through this whole process.”

As the university’s AV/IT programmes continue, NEC remains its standard for display equipment, with the C Series becoming more prevalent across its teaching spaces.

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