Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Learning Spaces update - Summer 2017

Over the Summer we’ve been carrying out works to various rooms to improve the facilities and enhance the teaching and learning experience.

Lecture Theatre V/N/045

This is a 200 seat lecture theatre located in Vanbrugh College, and we’ve given it a major overhaul this summer. After listening to your feedback, the room has new seating, flooring, lighting, AV equipment (including dual data projection), and an upgrade to the ventilation, so the room should no longer be hot & stuffy. A new hearing loop, and powered access door will assist with accessibility.

The room is nearly completed, we’ve just got the lectern to fit, and a few bits of finishing off.
Some additional work is already planned for the Christmas vacation to add extra lighting controls, and different lighting.

Lecture Theatre P/X/001

We’ve updated the AV equipment - the old clunky boards have been replaced with new lightweight column boards. Based on the recent feedback, we’re also providing two options for boards that can be captured with Replay - the Replay+ camera system that’s been installed in P/L/001 & P/L/002, and the digital OHP table that’s in Spring Lane lecture theatre.
Dual screens

Dual data projectors and large screens complement the new lectern. In a behind the scenes technological change - the audio and video are both transmitted over the network, rather than requiring dedicated AV cabling. We’re grateful to our friends in IT services for their help and expertise in setting this up.
New Projectors

New boards and lectern

Lecture Theatres ATB/056 & 057

Over the past few years, these rooms have been used as one large space. For the next academic year, these rooms will be split into two separate rooms. Again, we’re fitting new dual projection to each room, along with new lecterns, sound system, and a permanent visualiser in response to frequent requests in this space.
Lecture Theatre Layout

Seminar Room C/A/122

This room has been upgraded and now has our standard set of equipment with a new projector, lectern, supported PC, and lecture capture.

Seminar Room W/N/202

After years of being used for other purposes, this room is being brought back as a teaching room. It will have the standard set of equipment with a new projector, lectern, supported PC, and lecture capture, along with a new carpet, a hearing loop and some decoration.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Learning Spaces update for Spring term 2017

We've had a busy term where we completed a number of installs and have been planned for the next phase.

Over Christmas we addressed decor, lighting, furniture, hearing loops and AV provision in James College rooms G/001, 002, 010, 013, 020 and 045a and three rooms in Biology: B/M/023, 049 and 052. The layouts largely remain as original but with desk-height lecterns that integrate with the provided rows or horse-shoes:

We are in the process of collating the Post Occupancy Evaluation survey so that we can measure the change in performance of the rooms and how they contribute to the learning experience. Expect a follow up post on this subject soon.

The Learning Spaces Group has received an outline list of 40 spaces to refurbish/renew over the next 18 months, headed up by our Project Manager Sarah. We'll share that list shortly and it will be split in to deliverable parts that will continue on a rolling basis through to December 2018. For this Easter the focus is on a number of rooms in Psychology that are in need of technology and furnishing renewal.

Chair, Learning Spaces Working Group

Monday, 9 January 2017

Our Christmas list

Over the Christmas vacation the AV team have been busy making several changes to the equipment in teaching rooms.

Windows 10

Following the upgrade of a few rooms as a trial earlier in the year, all teaching rooms have now been upgraded to Windows 10. This will resolve a conflict between the In-Class Polling Tool (Turning Point Responseware), and PowerPoint when using Replay (the Lecture Capture system).

All software is available as before, but there are a few differences to be aware of:

Logging on

When you approach the computer it will show this screen:

Click the mouse, or press any key to get to the username and password screen:

Once you’ve entered your username and password you’ll be taken to the desktop:

Your first login may take slightly longer on a first log in as a new profile is generated. Any desktop icons will still be present, but shared drives may need to be remapped.

Web browser

The default browser is now Chrome. Although its profile doesn't roam between PCs you can sign into Chrome to sync your settings.

HDCP, bit depth and display power saving

We’ve made three changes to the video switchers that are present in about half of our rooms:
  1. We’ve disabled HDCP (High Definition Copy Protection) on the Laptop HDMI input cable, as it was causing problems with Replay (The Lecture Capture system). This means that content presented from Mac laptops should now record reliably, but connecting a copy protected source (ie a Blu-ray player) to the laptop input will fail. We have a workaround that we can implement for this if playback from a Blu-ray is required (please email us on if you'd like us to arrange this).
  2. We’ve changed a setting that relates to how the image from the PC is recognised. This should stop the frequent grey screens that have been a problem since an update was rolled out over summer.
  3. We’ve enabled a power saving setting, so that two minutes after all input signals are removed, the monitor will turn off. Waking the PC up again, or connecting a laptop will bring the monitor back on.

Replay: more rooms and new guidance

We’re also in the process of equipping D/L/047, D/L/116, D/N/104, C/A/107, C/A/130, C/A/140, K/111, PS/B/202, V/C/123 with the equipment required to use the Replay service, in addition to the rooms that will get Replay as part of the Christmas refurbishments. The software that runs the recording indicator lights has been updated to a more reliable version, and there's a new reminder label by each of the lights explaining what it means.

As ever, please get in touch on if you have any comments or questions.

Philip Stewart
Audio-Visual Manager

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Piazza Episode 5 - Return of the Comfy Seating

No building would be complete without an atrium, and the Piazza building is no exception. The ground floor of the atrium area is going to house a 350-seat servery, with areas on the first and second floor earmarked for touch down spaces for use between lectures.

As a placeholder, these areas have been configured with relaxed seating and coffee tables, however we’ll be looking at alternative layouts in the new year. These might include booth seating, which is great for group working and allows us to make good laptop power provision, or might be based around relaxed seating but with higher, more laptop friendly, tables instead.

If you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see, please let us know via the usual e-mail address ( so that we can take them into account when we start looking at furniture options along with flooring, colours and other finishes over the next few months.


Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Piazza Episode 4 - The Flat Floor Awakens

Hopefully the subject of a guest blog in the new year, one of the ‘behind the scenes’ activities in Space Management is the modelling of space requirements for teaching.

With the inclusion of a new lecture theatre in the Piazza Building we’re able to look at using other Campus East rooms such as LMB/030+31 as two rooms rather than one - which in turn frees up one of the new spaces in the Piazza building.

Rather than equipping that space for lectures, which would create a flat-floored lecture room for a maximum of 100 (though, significantly less with high quality writing surfaces), we’ve been looking at setting it up as a space for student societies, exhibitions and other uses instead.

We’d still include the infrastructure for a lecture space (power for projectors, somewhere to connect a lectern, etc) but have removed the floor box that would have fed a lectern so that we can provide the most solid floor space possible. To that end, we’ll also be looking at fitting the room with a solid floor rather than carpet, so that groups like dance societies can make best use of it. And with that in mind, we’ll still plan to install some speakers so that users of the room can plug in a laptop or phone for music.

Of all of the spaces in the new building, this is one of the most exciting as we have the possibility to do something a bit different to address non-teaching needs in the University community, so if you have a use for this kind of space please do get in touch with us ( if what we’re planning would suit your needs or if there's something else that you’d like us to consider adding!


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Piazza Episode 3 - The Empire Lights Back

The new Piazza Building will include a large lecture theatre with about 350 seats, although we’ll be discussing exactly which seats to use in the new year (as ever, suggestions welcome via The tablet chairs as shown below are only indicative - there will be a writing bench similar to our other high quality theatres.

At this month’s Working Group, we discussed power provision (a socket per every three or four seats, similar to Spring Lane) and technology provision.

The height adjustable lectern that we introduced in Spring Lane has been well received, so will be repeated. However, we’ll be moving it away from the seats a little, so that it sits about halfway between them and the projection screens. We’ll also be shrinking the lectern from the three metres wide in Spring Lane to closer to two metres in Piazza to help make sure that there’ll still be plenty of free space at the front of the theatre.

We’ll be pairing the lectern with another video flipchart table which, like in Spring Lane, will allow the use of the projection screens (two, about the same size as Spring Lane) instead of traditional whiteboards.  Working seamlessly with lecture capture, as well as providing more virtual writing space than we’d have been able to fit had we used traditional column boards, the video flipchat has received overwhelmingly positive feedback so far - though we will be looking at making it a little more presentable in its next incarnation!

As well as taking the best bits of our recent builds and refurbishments, we’re always looking for ways to improve our spaces. One of the things we’re looking at for the Piazza Building is the lecture theatre lighting. As well as the standard strip lights that we find in lecture theatre across campus, we’d like to include some more focused lighting towards the front of the theatre. This will help to create a ‘performance space’ at the front of the theatre, as well as making the projections look better and simultaneously making the speaker is easier to see.

Speaking of performance spaces, next time will be a look at a potential societies space within the Piazza Building.


Monday, 19 December 2016

Piazza Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones

The majority of space in the Piazza Building is made up of seminar rooms - over 30 in total - which will seat about 20 people in a horseshoe setup similar to that used in the Spring Lane Building. The success of the Spring Lane Building provides a great blueprint for the planning for the Piazza Building.

Inspiration from the Spring Lane Building

The continuing use of ‘desk style’ teaching positions as part of the horseshoe setup has been popular, so will be continued. The ‘windows’ to the interior of the building have also been well received - students being able to spot empty rooms and make use of them has been mentioned repeatedly in feedback, and the Spring Lane Building’s heavy usage (already among the heaviest on campus!) owes significantly to them so they’ll be repeated and enlarged in the new building.

One of the lessons learned from the Spring Lane Building has been that power provision for laptops is important in seminar rooms, as students might have a couple of 2-3 hour seminars in a day, with no chance to recharge laptops in between. Originally, the Piazza seminar rooms had been designed with ample plug sockets - in some cases, enough for one per person. However, having considered concerns relating to trailing cables, Helen and I have been tasked with investigating furniture with integrated power, which will allow a socket at every seat. Should it be successful, it will be something that we can look at retrofitting elsewhere in our learning estate.

Turning to the technology, our recommendation that we explore wireless presentation receivers was well received. Hopefully a subject of their own article in the new year, inclusion of these in each room would free the lecturer to deliver from anywhere in the room as well as facilitating the use of touchscreen laptops or tablets to enable a more interactive style of teaching. We’ll also be looking to include a digital OHP in every room, as well as Replay functionality (watch this space for articles on those subjects too!) throughout.

Next, a look at the 350-seat lecture theatre.