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Nick Barker hosted a panel discussion with AV experts for UK universities at the Clevertouch Gallery

Our Higher Ed specialist, Nick Barker, invited leading AV experts for UK universities to a panel discussion at the Clevertouch Gallery. The morning, hosted by Paul Milligan of InAVate Magazine, gave industry leaders an insight into how their peers operate. 


Caroline Carter, AV Installations Manager, Imperial College London

Adam Harvey, Solution Architect - AV and Digital Media, University of Hertfordshire 

Damian Welch, AV Architect University of the Arts London


Paul Milligan, InAVate Magazine


You can watch the recording of the Panel Discussion here

Planning for the unplannable. The biggest pain points of 2022. 

Global supply chains have been significantly impacted by the post-pandemic surge in building projects, leading to unprecedented lead times in 2022. Most updates to teaching spaces happen over the summer break, and as Adam Harvey points out, "the first day of teaching never changes". Projects have to be completed in time, and if there are issues with supply chains, then plans have to be changed to match what products are readily available.

Caroline Carter confirms, "Last summer was difficult in terms of delays due to getting hold of equipment. We also found that the architects and builders that we were working with to redevelop rooms could not source items, and those delays had a knock-on effect on the timeframe of the projects". 


Planning for 2023 and beyond. 

Putting together plans for projects involves multiple suppliers, stakeholders and variables. With institutions such as the University of Hertfordshire refreshing rooms every five years, a key consideration when planning projects is choosing a robust kit to extend the refresh rate. 

There needs to be a careful balance between achieving what stakeholders want and getting that solution under budget while still meeting required standards. Early on in the planning process, the conversations need to be around what users want and, more importantly, why they want it. Understanding how a teaching space is to be used gives project managers greater insight into what products will be required.

Problems can arise when there are last-minute decisions. As Adam Harvey notes, "There are a lot of last-minute decisions. If a course over recruits, which is good for the university as it gets more money, then suddenly that's a real problem as you need to quickly find more teaching rooms". Caroline Carter agrees; "Often, when classes are oversubscribed, there will be a suggestion to 'just stream it', but that has its own set of challenges to consider".

Timetables may be done a year in advance, and initially, all those students will attend in person. A few weeks in, and you are down to half those numbers. This causes issues for space management. "The hybrid bit has thrown another element of confusion into our lives". Continues Caroline. "Rooms have to be a jack-of-all-trades, so you spend too much money on a room because you might use it, but you might not".

It may be easier to follow a more standardised 'corporate style', where the equipment and delivery method are the same in every teaching space. Damian Welch of the University of Arts London is a fan of an AV Core Campus; "Whatever campus or building the academic goes to, they have the same feeling. Every room will be Teams enabled, every room will have Panopto, and every room potentially has Clevertouch".


Embracing the hybrid model

After over a year of learning from home, most universities are now running a hybrid education programme, where students can choose to learn in-person or remotely. 

The University of Hertfordshire has embraced this approach. "Our vice chancellor has directed that we change every programme that we teach to be blended with flexible delivery." Adam continues, "Every space is becoming AV-enabled".

Caroline agrees that any room can be a hybrid room: "Every room is Panopto enabled, and any room that has Panopto in can be changed to a Teams or Zoom room."

"Universities want to have students on-site for that university life experience, but want to offer online learning and have the flexibility to do so." Continues Adam. 

Damien agrees, "Every room is Dante enabled. Whether it is Dante with Teams or Dante with audio or video, Dante gives flexibility in spaces, so they can push through whatever they want in any environment. Be it digital signage or audio or visual, they can do it through Dante."


The need for a co-pilot

With the increase of hybrid learning, many academics find it challenging to teach the class while keeping track of the messages and questions coming in online. Caroline believes that "with online learning, academics need a co-pilot."

"On Teams, you miss questions coming in, so you need a teaching assistant to deal with that. It needs to be a combination of teaching assistants and someone who understands the AV in the room." she continues. 

About 50% of UK universities that were in the audience use a teaching assistant or co-pilot during hybrid lessons. They need to be mic'ed up and they need to be familiar with the in-room technology. 


And the biggest challenge ahead?

One of the main differences between Higher Ed and the Corporate market is that in corporate, it would just overrun by two weeks. In Higher Ed, that isn't an option because the teaching start date never changes. 

Adam Harvey confirms, "The biggest consideration is getting it finished. Fee-paying students have a high level of expectation." That expectation is that the teaching spaces are complete, flexible and designed to enrich the learning experience. 

Caroline agrees, "If we can't do it on time, then we won't do it at all."


"It was great to host this event in our showroom and bring together members from the University sector. The discussion was really useful and shared some common challenges universities have faced. Thank you to those that attended. Due to its success, we'll be running similar events in the future." Nick Barker


If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Nick Barker

Universities want to have students on-site for that university life experience, but want to offer online learning and have the flexibility to do so