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UON’s Waterside Campus: Enhancing student experience with digital tech

Standing on the banks of the River Nene, the University of Northampton’s advanced new Waterside campus supports the education of over 15,000 students. Enter one of its five academic buildings and you soon spot signs of its digital transformation.

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Dramatic multi-screen video walls display event information. Interactive wayfinding kiosks help you easily orientate yourself. Look around, and you see groups of students gathered around digital screens to share content, collaborating. Glance in any of the 116 teaching spaces across campus and you’ll see lecturers doing the same with students.

It’s all part of a new digital IT/AV teaching platform designed by the University to deliver its ‘Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change’ vision.

(UON Video Case Study: Watch on Vimeo)

Attracting students with high expectations

In a highly competitive marketplace, the University works hard to be a desirable destination as students bring high expectations.

Increasingly these expectations are shaped by students having grown up plugged into digital technology. Professor Ale Armellini, Director of the Institute of Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, explains the University’s approach:

“We looked to create a teaching infrastructure fit for the digital age, supporting our student-centred teaching philosophy. It had to enable collaborative and independent learning, nurture our students’ digital literacy and help us prepare them for the world of work.”

Getting systems in place in time for term

The University sought a systems integrator to make its vision a reality.

“We were drawn to Kinly’s background in delivering corporate AV projects”, says Andrew Taylor, the University’s Digital Integration Lead. “Right from the bid stage, we felt confident Kinly understood and could deliver what we required.”

When the University changed its preferred control technology and teaching platform just weeks before the final high-level design deadline, the pressure was on for Andrew and the Kinly team. Working together, they rapidly designed a working solution integrating technology from a revised mix of vendors.

“We had a really short timeframe to turn our new high-level design into a working system,” says Andrew. “Kinly rose to the challenge and delivered for us.”

With installation and commissioning complete, the Waterside campus welcomed its first students on schedule in September.

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More enjoyable teaching and more engaged students

Students immediately see the difference. In class, they no longer get frustrated watching lecturers battle broken projectors.

Instead, lecturers upload teaching materials in advance to the University’s virtual learning environment. Then, as class starts, they simply open their laptops, connect to the AV platform and class materials instantly appear on digital screens.

As a result, students get more value from their contact time.

“It’s more enjoyable for our lecturers, who can focus on teaching,” says Andrew. “But it’s fantastic for our students who benefit from the more engaging, collaborative teaching style our platform supports.”

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More reliable equipment, maintained more cost effectively

The platform has transformed how Andrew’s team works. Every morning he runs a remote maintenance check, sending out commands to the AV equipment across campus. His team then fixes any potential issues, ensuring the equipment is working – long before students and lecturers arrive for classes.

“Without the ability to do remote checks, we’d have spent hundreds of hours a year physically visiting rooms and checking equipment. By doing those checks remotely, we’ve eliminated that time – saving in the region of £40–50k every year.”

The combination of control platform and well-installed equipment has also boosted overall reliability.

"We've just got far fewer technical issues to deal with now," says Andrew.

Other savings

The new digital screens allow the University to avoid a cost of over £100k a year simply for replacement projector bulbs. And the control platform lets Andrew's team remotely turn off or dim the screens overnight in areas of buildings that are not used 24/7.

“This saves us around £17k a year in electricity costs,” says Andrew.

Delivering education beyond Waterside

The University’s new videoconferencing rooms enable more effective meetings. But that’s not their full potential.

In future, they could support the delivery of classes beyond the Waterside campus. For example, to partner institutions worldwide. By avoiding the need for lecturers to travel, this will save costs and cut the University's carbon footprint.

“Kinly has helped us deliver our vision," says Andrew. "Their installation team went above and beyond to hit deadlines. They are simply the best set of engineers I’ve had on site in my 10 years at the University.”

Watch Andrew's Testimonial Video >

AV Awards 2019 -  'Education Project of the Year' WINNER

AV awards Winner

This project won 'Education Project of the Year' at the AV Awards 2019 held at a stunning new venue – Battersea Evolution on 11th October 2019. Kinly’s award entry shows how our team put the client first above everything else to complete this multi-million pound AV integration project for  UoN  on plan, on time and under budget. Kinly  answered and delivered on the universities brief to provide an IT/AV platform that aligns to UoN’s ‘Transforming Lives + Inspiring Change’ vision, creating a teaching infrastructure fit for the digital age and supporting a student-centred teaching philosophy.

Digital Transformation, AV

Thomas McKenna

About Thomas McKenna

Thomas McKenna is UK Marketing Manager at Kinly

Read more posts by Thomas McKenna