SUPA (Scottish Universities Physics Alliance) uses Vscene to enhance teaching and learning and facilitate collaboration

Challenge

Bring together a distributed graduate school based in eight institutions across multiple universities to deliver economically viable courses over video

Solution

“Vscene enhances teaching and learning by connecting a community of 1200 physics, academics, research staff and postgraduate students anywhere, on any device.”

Results

“Our school simply couldn’t function without it! We are now keen to use Vscene more.”

The Client

SUPA, the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, is a strategic alliance of eight physics schools with a shared strategy for research. The Universities of Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Heriot-Watt, St Andrews, Strathclyde and West of Scotland are all SUPA members.

Launched in 2004 with the aim of placing Scotland at the forefront of research in physics through coordinated promotion and pursuit of excellence, SUPA has been highly successful in establishing Scotland as a recognised international leader in research and advanced postgraduate training in physics. SUPA is a community of over 1,200 physicists (academics, research staff and postgraduate students) across Scotland.

The SUPA Graduate School provides postgraduate education and training to Scottish physicists.  The SUPA program consists of over 50 courses, covering all seven of SUPA’s research themes. SUPA offers PhD studentships for outstanding students from anywhere in the world. These prestigious and competitive awards are intended to attract excellent students to study for a PhD in Scotland.  A majority of SUPA courses are delivered via custom built video conference rooms in each of the eight SUPA institutions.

The Challenge

While SUPA recognised that having a taught component for postgraduate researchers would produce better physicists, they were also aware that this would not be economically viable for individual institutions to run due to the small number of participants involved. A distributed graduate school based in up to eight institutions (and across multiple campuses and universities) across Scotland made any possibility of having frequent classes unfeasible. The solution was to have video conference rooms at each site to allow face-to-face style classes, thereby sharing the teaching load and achieving critical mass.

The original video conferencing installations – dating from 2006 – were in serious need of an upgrade by 2016.  Academic and research staff also now wanted more flexibility and accessibility than the previous video conferencing system could provide, which only allowed video meetings to be scheduled within the dedicated conferencing suite. SUPA also needed to be able to have parallel classes due to the increased usage of the video conferencing rooms; the previous system didn’t support this functionality. SUPA’s main priority was to find a quality, yet cost effective solution that could be easily accessed by everyone from any videoconferencing system, desktop video or mobile device

John Wilson CEO – “It was critical that Ajenta provided the highest quality technology in each classroom to ensure SUPA could maintain a natural, immersive learning experience for all its students and lecturers”

The Solution

SUPA use Vscene to bring together their geographically dispersed community of 1,200 physics academics, research staff and postgraduate students for lectures connecting with eight universities across Scotland. Users can connect using any device, wherever they are in the world.

4K Resolution and Enhanced Hardware

Each SUPA video conferencing room at the eight partner universities has been designed and built using dedicated Vscene room system hardware. The hardware provides up to 4K resolution over dual cameras, with support for lectern PCs, guest laptops and mobile as well as visualizers and smart boards.

HD Recordings and Webcasting

SUPA have on average 30+ virtual classroom sessions every week with a diverse mixture of users joining from different devices. Each session is recorded in HD for future reference and webcasted to provide real-time inclusion for a much larger web-based audience.

Enhanced Teaching and Learning

Since launching six months ago, SUPA has benefitted from higher quality video and audio, better scheduling potential and integration with other devices and connections. Vscene has enhanced SUPA’s teaching and learning environment by offering a platform that allows them to communicate easily with whoever they need to, whenever they want to and wherever they are.

Technical

“The significant upgrade in resolution of video provides a much higher content frame rate and a better user experience”

Support

“The new System requires less effort to maintain than the previous system and maintenance contracts cost much less”

Expansion

“We are now keen to use Vscene more – by utilising the rooms more out of semester time and to connect more users off campus”

 “Compared to the alternative of having lecturers travel to eight institutions, the benefits of Vscene are so great that the school simply couldn’t function without it.” Dr Christian Killow, Graduate School Co-ordinator, Scottish Universities Physics Alliance.  

What were your main priorities when sourcing a solution?

We considered cost, reliability, quality of experiences, support, ability to schedule classes, recording, low maintenance costs.

From specification to deployment how has Ajenta and Vscene performed on expectations?

Ajenta have been very accommodating in helping us to find the best solution for our specific needs – needs which occasionally changed as our thinking developed. We were already using Vscene with the previous system, but we are now able to benefit from more of its capabilities than before. We are also looking forward to the new interface and rapid response to requests that Ajenta will bring to Vscene.

Can you outline the main tangible benefits so far from using the solution?

The significant upgrade in resolution of video, along with the much higher content channel frame rate, provide a much better user experience. Some of the previous maintenance contracts were more expensive than the current running costs. Also, IT support at the institutions have reported the new system requires less effort to maintain than the previous system – and that is good news considering bedding-in problems can be expected after an upgrade of this scope.

What plans do you have to expand the service further?

We are now keen to use Vscene more – both by utilising the rooms more (out of semester time) and by connecting to other users not physically in the room.

Summary:

  • User friendly interface
  • High quality video and audio
  • HD recording and webcasting to provide real-time inclusion 
  • 3G and 4G compatibility
  • Ongoing support and adoption services