University of the Sunshine Coast Learning and Teaching Hub

Challenge

Make Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast a leader in multimedia-assisted education and a preferred choice for prospective students.

Solution

Design and deploy a connected campus, with unique teaching spaces, where multimedia content created in one classroom can be shared with others in real time.

The Team

Customer: University of the Sunshine Coast
AV Consultant/Project Manager: InDesign Technologies
Integrator: Programmed Electrical Technologies
Integrator: Control Gadgets

Founded in 1996 with 524 students, Australia’s University of the Sunshine Coast (USC) recently welcomed 12,000 for the first semester of the 2015 school year. Its exponential growth can be attributed to the university’s broad base of programs in arts and business, science, health, education and engineering — with a special emphasis on using the latest AV, IT and multimedia technologies to enhance teaching and learning.

With funding from the Australian Commonwealth Government, USC built a new AU$33 million Learning and Teaching Hub, equipped with IP-based AV/IT systems to support simulation-based learning across a number of disciplines, including its accredited nursing program. The systems were designed and executed by InDesign Technologies in close collaboration with USC.

“We have built a strong partnership with USC over the years,” says InDesign Managing Director Peter Coman, “which is why they trusted us with this project.”

The Sunshine Coast region of Australia’s Queensland state has grown rapidly, putting pressure on healthcare facilities in the area. Although it’s a true university with hundreds of programs, USC’s health, nursing and sport sciences students are especially in demand. This was the impetus for building the Learning and Teaching Hub.

“The Sunshine Coast will soon be home to a major new hospital that will require many nurses,” says Perry Dixon, USC’s Manager of Customer and Information Technology Services. “But currently there are very few medical facilities where our students can do practical training. The Learning and Teaching Hub is home to a simulation-based facility that includes not only realistic clinical wards, but electronically-connected mannequins that can simulate actual medical conditions and respond to interventions.”

The new three-story facility was designed to harness technology for a better education experience. It has led to an environment in which instructor-student and student-student collaboration results in the co-creation of knowledge that can then be shared through audio/video, such as large-format, high-definition monitors installed throughout the hub.

In many cases, new technology has meant new pedagogy, driven in part by USC’s Centre for Support and Advancement of Learning and Technology (C-SALT), which helps teachers maximize the capabilities of their multimedia classrooms. “We work with USC’s instructors to discover and develop teaching methods that take full advantage of the AV/IT equipment we have in the Learning and Teaching Hub,” says Dr. Ruth Greenaway, C-SALT’s Academic Developer.

Tiered Learning Space
Among the hub’s most collaborative teaching environments is its Tiered Learning Space, a 75-student classroom designed to maximize technology-enabled education. Students work at multimedia-equipped, multi-person desks, while the instructor moves around the room providing guidance. They can share digital content in small groups or with the larger class.

“Each multimedia desk has a Web-connected PC, a 23-inch monitor with touch overlay, a control pad, and a switch with six HDMI inputs and one VGA input,” Coman says. “The students use this multimedia functionality to work on solutions collaboratively by researching topics set by the instructor and sharing answers via the PC or their own mobile devices.”

The PCs can route content to the room’s central media matrix, which in turn plays video and computer graphics on large projection screens. A digital visualizer and touchscreen controller at the lectern allow instructors to switch video feeds and share their own multimedia information. They can even connect to the desks’ PCs in order to monitor students’ progress from a central location.

Moreover, every desk also has a gooseneck microphone, while instructors use wireless microphones to amplify sound in the room so everyone can hear. And everything — audio and video — can be recorded using the room’s HD lecture-capture system so students can access the class later over the Internet.

“Our Tiered Learning Space helps to keep our students engaged in what they’re learning,” Dixon says. “Moreover, the learning here is truly collaborative. Often, students discover new facts during their in-class Web research that inform the rest of the class.”

Immersive Simulation
In another part of the Learning and Teaching Hub is USC’s Immerse classroom, in which three of four walls are videowalls.

“Using Immerse, we can simulate a busy ward for our nursing science students, a war scene for our journalism students, or a car accident scene for our road-safety researchers and paramedics,” says Christian Jones, USC’s Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Media. “We are currently developing other immersive experiences, such as simulations of coastal flooding, visualizations of neurological pathways in the brain, installations of interactive digital art and animation, and innovative gaming mechanics for individual and shared exploration and learning.”

The videowalls of the Immerse classroom comprise six blended, short-throw projectors that create a 19-meter (62-foot) wraparound canvas. To maximize the experience by minimizing shadows and other distracting artifacts, the AV designers mounted the projectors as close to the screens as possible. All of the HD video content in the room is delivered by a humble, easy-to-use Windows-based PC with a six-headed video card, rather than a more conventional processor.

“We were told that it couldn’t be done without a video processor,” Coman says. “We proved them wrong.”

The room enjoys immersive sound, too, rounding out the experience for students and faculty. Designers specified a surround-sound processor, amplifiers and in-ceiling speakers to bring the classroom’s multimedia content to life.

Truly Exceptional Experiences
The Tiered Learning Space and Immerse classroom are just two of the technology-enabled experiences that InDesign Technologies and its partners created for USC. The school’s many nursing simulation rooms integrate AV and IT systems for monitoring, recording and controlling students’ progress. They and their teachers can even review simulations in the Immerse classroom.

And throughout the Learning and Teaching Hub, the AV team has introduced videoconferencing, lecture theaters, visualization and other collaborative tools that enhance education.

“We have truly achieved our goal of marrying AV and IT technology, creating purpose-built teaching spaces, and adopting innovative pedagogical approaches” says Dixon. “The result is USC has increased its attractiveness to potential students and innovative instructors and researchers, allowing us to advance to the next level of academic excellence.”

Technology Highlights

The University of the Sunshine Coast’s Learning and Teaching Hub includes audiovisual and IT systems from many different manufacturers, including but not limited to:

Atlona (HDMI to composite converters)
Bose (speakers)
Cisco (network switches)
Crestron (control systems, digital matrices, touchscreens, keypads)
Dell (PCs and touchscreen LCDs)
Electro-Voice (microphones, digital signal processors)
Elmo (digital visualizers)
Epson (short-throw projectors)
Lenovo (desktop PCs)
Panasonic (PTZ and HD cameras)
Samsung (Blu-Ray disc players, display monitors)
Shure (wireless microphones, receivers, transmitter packs)
Sonic Foundry (HD lecture capture)

By James Careless, Special to InfoComm International®