Harper Adams and Keele Universities have joined forces to create a new centre of excellence for veterinary training, supporting the initiative with investment in new facilities, including two new-build projects.
The School's Veterinary & Surgery degree programme splits the intake of students 50:50 between the two campus sites. Practical sessions are taught across both locations and lectures are carried out at their ‘home campus’. The ‘home-based’ teaching is delivered simultaneously to both halves of the cohort by a specialist lecturer based at one campus and live-streamed to the other.
A key priority for the Vet School is to ensure that undergraduates access the same high-quality, engaging learning experience regardless of their location. The overall aim is to create a seamless digital join between the two campuses, maximising the learning opportunities offered by the universities' combined excellence in teaching, research and vocational studies.
On the Shropshire site, the new Veterinary Education Centre, which serves students across a range of veterinary paraprofessional degrees offered by both the Vet School and by Harper Adams, features a range of facilities to complement the animal resources on campus and enhance classroom-based learning. The spaces include two lecture theatres, seminar rooms, clinical skills environments, and general teaching rooms.
The lecture theatres provide real-time streaming of video, audio and data from campus to campus allowing lectures to be delivered by one person simultaneously in the two locations. They are traditional in layout but use large format screens in place of projection, with repeater screens providing clear visibility of the detailed, high contrast content required during lectures.
The link with Keele is managed via a Poly Group 700 video conferencing system and two Panasonic PTZ cameras selected to mirror the facilities already in place at Keele University. Custom programming of the Extron control panel in-line with layouts already produced by Pure AV for Keele creates further synergy between the campus sites’ set-up. The result is a consistent experience for the lecturer, whether teaching at Keele or Harper Adams.
The four main seminar rooms fall into two types; practical teaching areas, with desks arranged for group work situated around wall-mounted screens, and general teaching, with desks arranged in a front-facing layout. There is also an operating theatre with six bays to accommodate practical exercises and two clinical skills rooms again equipped with screens to enable students to connect their devices for breakout activity. These final two rooms can also be combined to create one larger teaching space.
The audio visual system is consistent across all seminar spaces. The breakout screens enable students to work in small groups and share outcomes digitally with the broader group. There is the choice to connect devices via HDMI or wirelessly using the Airtame system. The use of Wyrestorm AV over IP enables the flexible distribution of content between rooms, a feature originally intended for use only in the lecture theatres but extended to cover all spaces in response to Covid-19.
Lecturers control the system using Extron control panels programmed to prioritise ease of use and create a consistent experience across all teaching spaces and between the two campus sites.
Additional audio visual services within the building include large format, wall-mounted screens and resident PCs, with wired and wireless connection options in six small consulting rooms. Two office spaces similarly appointed, and digital signage within the student social spaces and communal areas.
Feedback received during staff familiarisation sessions is hugely positive. Teaching staff report that the system is easy to use. In the clinical, practical and general teaching spaces, they are excited by the enhanced ability to share digital resources and engage in small group work.
The university points to productivity benefits; live-streaming lectures eliminates the need to deliver repeat lectures in-person on each campus. It also offers environmental and biosecurity advantages, as the need for staff, students and visitors to travel between campuses is reduced.
The University’s IT/AV service delivery team wanted a reliable system that is simple to manage and offers uniformity in the user experience. The solution meets those requirements with tried and tested technology and a custom user interface to create consistency between rooms and cohesion between the two sites.
Duncan Gunn-Russell, IT/AV Technical Specialist, Harper Adams University, is delighted with the outcome.
“The system delivered by Pure AV provides the flexible management and sharing of data, audio and video we need to adapt our provision to changing social distancing requirements. The design also maintains the ease of use and cohesion between rooms and the two campus sites critical to the student and lecturer experience.”
Duncan is equally enthusiastic about the experience of working with the Pure AV team.
“The project went very smoothly. We made some changes to increase flexibility in response to Covid-19, including extending the usage of Wyrestorm AV over IP into more teaching spaces. We also switched from laser projection to large format displays in our lecture theatres. Alec, our Pure AV project manager, took the lead in communication with the university’s IT/AV and infrastructure teams and other trades, ensuring smooth project delivery. He responded proactively to our revisions and met all timescales. All in all, it has been an excellent experience.”