Generally resorting to projection, higher education environments have avoided installing large LED video walls for one main reason – budget. But as the price has decreased and the lifespan of these displays has increased, the total cost of ownership for LED has become an attractive proposition for universities and colleges that are looking to upgrade their facilities.
The University of Hertfordshire
The University of Hertfordshire has grown from its humble beginnings in the 1950s to what is it now – providing quality higher education programs to 32,000 students from around 140 countries.
The university has always been at the forefront of AV trends in education. Expanding its reach and adjusting its strategy towards a consistent way of learning, the university had an opportunity to upgrade and modernise the campus spaces and decommission old equipment with high ongoing running costs.
Recently, the university has taken a step forward by integrating LED into its long-term AV strategy, partnering with GVAV as integrators and PSCo to provide the technology. Spanning over a year and covering multiple different areas of the campus, the project was broken down into three phases: a student nightclub turned lecture theatre (The Forum), a multi-use learning space (Prince Edward Hall) and the Boardroom – all using LED displays.
The aim was to create state-of-the-art facilities for both students and teachers.
A large-scale project wasn’t without its challenges. Everyone involved took their part to address unconventional spaces, technology requirements and hardware shortages following the aftermath of the pandemic.
The University of Hertfordshire has been very proactive in developing the campus with its Solution Architect, Adam Harvey, being at the centre of it from the start. He’s been a part of the university for 29 years and is now responsible for the AV strategy, design and project work.
Harvey’s main goal is to unify the learning experience regardless of which lecture hall or theatre you’re attending. During COVID-19, students were sent home and remote learning was introduced – continuing to this day in the form of blended learning. The pandemic heightened the importance of technology in education and redefined how we learn. Higher education spaces are required to cater to the new way of learning.
The points of concern for Harvey were the Boardroom, Prince Edward Hall, temporary teaching rooms and Student Union nightclub. The latter was experiencing a downturn in commercial activity, presenting an opportunity to repurpose the space. Prince Edward Hall was not fit for purpose and, as Harvey puts it, ‘universally disliked as a space’.
The University of Hertfordshire is a standout example of a higher education institution that has embraced the power of LED to enhance the learning and teaching experience with excellent results.
Initially, the university was planning to choose the traditional option – projection. However, it proved difficult to find the right solution due to the size and layout of the space. That’s when Harvey started considering LED. It is a flexible modular solution, ideal for unconventional and large spaces. But it’s also more expensive, or so Harvey thought at first.
Following an extensive review of the different technology options working in collaboration with AV consultants Hewshott - considering the life span, maintenance and reliability - LED proved to be closer to projection costs than initially expected. The facilities at Innovation House, PSCo’s experience centre, were also utilisied to see and compare different LED solutions and ensure the client was comfortable with making the decision.
“Having a place such as Innovation House helped the client to streamline the whole process. Traditionally you would have to go to multiple sites, coordinate with individual vendors and manage diaries. At Innovation House you can see it all, get technical advice and compare multiple solutions at once”. – Graham Pow, General Sales Manager at PSCo.
“In my mind, LED was absolutely a way forward”. – Adam Harvey, Solution Architect at the University of Hertfordshire.
The winner of the tender had to commit to a large-scale project within the education sector. Not only that, GVAV, as the chosen integrator for the University of Hertfordshire, had to deal with supply shortages.
GVAV was the one for the job with its competitive tender prices and significant buying power. Mike Winter, Senior Project Manager, London & South at GVAV ensured the smooth process, finding kit alternatives that hit the brief and the deadline.
The installation process started early with on-site visits while the contractors were still there, discussing cable runs, power and services. However, at the point of handover, the substructure behind the main wall in the lecture hall was unknown, creating a possible complication to the installation.
PSCo managed to come in, inspect, test and pre-drill the wall to ensure that the LEDs could be installed safely and securely. As Mike Winter noted that due to the size and the number of pixels of the LED wall, there were possible ’53 million points of failure’ but due to reliable partners like PSCo, the installation was quick and seamless.
With Sharp/NEC as the go-to technology, GVAV and PSCo provided the following solution to the university:
tvONE CORIOmaster has further future-proofed the project, allowing much-needed 4K image processing.
At the time of installation, the largest of the LED walls came to stand at 9 x 3.5 meters with around 13 million LEDs and became the largest 4K LED display in higher education in the country! The Forum had a long ‘honeymoon period’ as Harvey noted, fascinating students and teachers.
The wow factor of the display not only helps students but also works as an attractive resource.
“Engaging businesses and the external community is key for us. To have a flagship showcase venue that we can bring people to is a real benefit for us” – Adam Harvey, Solution Architect at the University of Hertfordshire.
The 4K quality has provided the university with its own IMAX-like cinema experience but more importantly, it gave the art students that work with 4K a place to display their content.
The Boardroom, the Forum and Prince Edward Hall are now Sharp/NEC LED equipped. The feedback was incredible from both students and teachers - the new installations allowed more efficient teaching and learning experiences, including blended learning and remote learning.
Not only that, the installed LED walls provided those spaces with a standout resource for the university, but it eliminated the light issue it had had previously. With projection, room lighting had to be controlled, meaning that teachers struggled in poorly lit lecture halls. Now, teachers and students don’t have to worry about finding their documents, notebooks or pens in the dark. LED has lit up the learning spaces and everyone is benefiting from it!
The future of LED in higher education is bright. As Graham Pow has noted:
“At the moment, we see around 21% year-on-year growth within the narrow-pixel pitch market. We will soon see the education market go beyond that as the prices drop, the all-in-one category continues to grow, and the installation process is being simplified”.
For Harvey, this correlates with the big plans he has for the university. He’s already been through the digital transformation in his 29 years working with AV – seeing the technology change first-hand and understanding the importance of constant modernisation. No doubt the University of Hertfordshire will continue to innovate, incorporating LED into their wider AV strategy for a consistent way of learning. Harvey emphasises:
“The end goal is to provide state-of-the-art teaching facilities for students”.
The University of Hertfordshire has a long history with Sharp/NEC. The partnership evolved to unify the technology around the campus and for a good reason. Sharp/NEC has everything from monitors, large format displays, Direct View LED and projection. It’s known to provide robust, reliable technology – ideal for education environments.
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