Versatile learning spaces at the heart of University of Chichester’s new Academic BuildingThe University of Chichester is cleverly combining creative learning spaces within new buildings with a wonderful legacy of historic and listed structures. Offering a broad spectrum of degree subjects and a deep commitment to widening participation, it’s essential that all learning spaces are versatile as well as high performance.

When planning the opening of the new Academic Building on Bishop Otter Campus in January 2017, part of the university’s strategy was to deliver 500 new science, technology, engineering undergraduate and postgraduate student places. For this they called on their trusted integrator Reflex to handle the audio visual requirements.

The requirements

The requirement for the Academic Building was to create solutions which included interactive classrooms, audio intrusive solutions and recording and streaming capabilities, all controllable by the user.

Reflex worked with the university AV projects team, Sarah Hearst and Ross Copping, to design clever cost effective ways to meet their requirements, whilst still delivering 22 new versatile and high performance learning spaces. These range in size from large (150 capacity), medium (25-60), seminar (10-20) to 1:1 meeting and tutorial rooms.

A tender requirement was the incorporation of AV and IT as an integrated solution. This integration included supporting the university’s use of Crestron Fusion and Xpanel, allowing the central management of the rooms’ functionality and enhancing the capability for support, service and maintenance.

The solution

To work within the client’s budget, a standard configuration of equipment was devised, with varying display sizes according to the size of the room.

NEC E series LED displays were installed throughout, with sizes ranging from 42” through to 90”. Where wall mounted, a Peerless flat wall mount was used and for the larger sizes, a Dalen (TOP-TEC) active customer trolley and custom slim line mast.

One of the more innovative aspects is the ability to screen-cast from a mobile device and show any networked data or external web pages on the tablets and display devices. Using this solution, Chichester is leading the way on ‘flipped classrooms’ and digital learning.

Throughout the project, audio was a key factor. Gooseneck microphones and wireless Revolab single channel system were used on desks and lecterns whilst lapel microphones are available for the lecturer or speaker. Audio distribution is via Extron amplifiers and speakers, either ceiling or wall mounted as appropriate.

In teaching rooms, assisted audio is provided for the hard of hearing through induction loop and IR emission systems.

The requested user control is enabled with lectern mounted Crestron touch pads and controllers. All the lecterns on the installation were bespoke items from Dalen (TOP-TEC), involving a high level of technical design work by Reflex and sustained liaison with the client.

In the bespoke IT Room, video output from the lecturer’s PC is captured and streamed via an Extron SMP-351. Students can access demonstrations or assistance from the lecturer on their own device, without the need to huddle around a single screen.

A strong project and technical design team, comprising Yag Depala, Head of Education Sales, Chris Seymour, Technical Sales Manager and Paul Stevens, Senior Project Manager, worked closely to guide the client through the project. This close liaison and stringent planning was the key to the success of this project.

Thanks to all the up-front work that was done, including design work, labour and equipment planning and the deployment of a strong lead engineer to run the site, the project ran like clockwork.

The result

Rod Matthews, Head of IT at the university comments:

“Working with the expert AV designers at Reflex and sharing knowledge about how to achieve teaching and learning excellence has resulted in a solution that supports our teaching excellence.”

Looking forward, the university is embarking on its largest project to date, with a significant new building to add to our Science Technology Engineering and Maths facilities.

Thanks to the success of the Academic Building, the university and Reflex are looking forward to work together on the specification of leading edge AV to satisfy our Ideas Lab, teaching CAD and film editing, film production, etc. This building will be equipped with next generation digital signage in a state of the art facility which is set to become the destination for teaching engineering and film making as well as for conferencing here on the south coast.