University of Leeds

It is really exciting to see these new spaces come to life – they are truly sector leading innovative learning spaces that combine the best use of space and digital technology to offer a collaborative and interactive learning experience.

- Professor Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning, University of Leeds

Lecture Theatre redesign at The University of Leeds sets new standards in large group teaching.

A pilot programme at the University of Leeds has seen three lecture theatres undergo an innovative redesign to create flexible spaces that offer a range of new ways to enhance the student experience.

The new spaces replace traditional lecture theatre seating with Collaborative Booths positioned on tiered levels and equipped with collaborative technology. The Booths promote interaction between students in smaller groups and increased communication between students and lecturer; supporting the strategic drive towards an active learning approach.

Project Brief

Named as University of the Year 2017 by the Times and The Sunday Times’ Good University Guide, The University of Leeds is already recognised for the delivery of a sector leading student experience. The transformation of the Lecture theatres is part of a wider £2.8m investment made in 2016 to upgrade the teaching spaces to a new set of standards in support of the University’s Digital Strategy for Student Education.

As Andy Truswell, systems Integration manager at Pure AV explains,

The University engaged consultant David Marshall of Avant Garde AV on the development of the tender and as a result had a very clear vision for the pilot lecture theatres.

For us as the chosen integrator the priority was to deliver an audio visual system that created ease of use for room users and supported that vision in a straight forward and cost effective way

The Solution

The lecturer experience has been carefully considered in the design of the AV solution and whilst the physical space is significantly different to what will have been experienced before, the user interface is consistent across all the new rooms and where possible uses the same control systems already in place across the campus.

Flexibility is incredibly important and the new design has created an adaptable space able to support both traditional didactic use and collaborative group based sessions.

The physical design of the space created by Project Architects Burwell Deakins includes a number of different booth designs. Each Collaborative Booth seats 3, 4 or 5 students around a desk with all seats facing the front and the group. This arrangement facilitates group work but also allows focus on front of room activity. By maintaining a raked seating structure the students also have a clear line of sight to the front of the room.

New tools have been added to the front of room environment in order to help the lecturer enrich the delivery of the content. Alongside the traditional lecture theatre technology, there is a large format 46”or 55” NEC interactive touch screen that is positioned as a writing surface in-front of the lecturer. Mounted on an adjustable stand it enables the lecturer to comfortably face the students whilst writing.

Each Booth desk is equipped with an internet enabled laptop, a touch to talk desk microphone and built in speaker. The individual booths can then be selected for front of room display by the lecturer via a 15” Extron control panel mounted on the lectern.

There is an audio conferencing system to support effective communication between the Booths and the rest of the room. The lecturer’s audio is played out through the ceiling mounted PA system.

In order to further enhance the potential for collaborative working within the space, the University has also introduced DisplayNote software. This now opens up the opportunity for two-way collaboration between the student and lecturer either with the hardwired laptop or the students own device.

The Results

Early feedback from one of the first academics to use the space, Dr. Lee Edwards, Associate Professor, Communication Studies and PR, School of Media and Communication, is extremely positive.

“The interactive technologies, intuitive control panels and touch screen make integrating technology into teaching a more interesting and rewarding experience for everyone. Students can access the VLE at their desks, use the Booth laptops to write and share work as a group, and their input can easily be integrated into the teaching process. It means I can create a learning environment that is varied and engaging, using different tools to help students develop and reflect on knowledge in new ways.”

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