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Swansea University and Sony create cutting-edge collaborative learning spaces

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Welsh university invests in Sony’s Vision Exchange to offer students an interactive, state-of-the-art learning experience

Founded in 1920, Swansea University, located in Wales is a research-led university that thrives on exploration and discovery. Renowned for offering a balance of teaching and research excellence with an enviable student experience, in 2018 the institution sought to further enhance its teaching capabilities and explore the potential of technology-enhanced active learning. Partnering with Sony and integrator GV Multimedia, the University has rolled out a suite of technologies, underpinned by Sony’s Vision Exchange solution, to create a collaborative learning environment within its newly designed state-of-the-art teaching space.

Background

Swansea University has created two new innovative flagship teaching spaces, designed to enhance its student experience and boost its collaborative learning capabilities. A new interactive space sits in the College of Engineering Central and consists of both a computer-lab and a state-of-the-art active learning studio. The solution in the College of Arts and Humanities is focused on a bring your own device approach.

The primary goal for the new spaces is to apply technology to encourage a shift in the pedagogy – for students and teachers alike – toward collaborative and active learning practices. There is a vast and growing body of evidence that shows active learning is more effective for knowledge retainment, while simultaneously being more engaging and enjoyable for teachers and students. As such, Swansea University set out to ensure its faculty and student body had access to the spaces and technologies that would allow them to unlock the potential of these new learning experiences.

Challenges

Swansea University is recognised as a leading innovator in the Higher Education sector, receiving accolades such as the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Gold award. In 2018, the institution needed to find an active learning solution that would meet its high standards while being implementable on a tight timetable and flexible enough to integrate with existing solutions. The university further needed to make the most out of the finite amount of space available and create a space which could be accessible at all hours and for any purposes – whether an engineering class, a faculty workshop or a students’ union meeting.

In addition to this essential functionality, Swansea University needed spaces that would provide the necessary wow-factor to attract new teachers and students, but that simultaneously was open to all. It needed to create a platform to showcase the power of active learning and make it accessible to the university community.

The Sony solution

After undertaking in-depth research, visiting numerous technology trade shows and testing a variety of solutions, Swansea concluded that Sony was the ideal provider to create a flagship collaborative learning space.

Swansea University, Sony and installation experts GV Multimedia conducted some intensive design and planning sessions and settled on creating the two collaborative learning spaces. The first was a smaller room, with four pods of five seats each. The second was designed as a reconfigurable teaching space equipped with 10 collaboration pods, with six seats per pod – functional as both a traditional PC lab and an active hybrid classroom.

In both rooms each pod is equipped with a Sony BRAVIA Professional Display complete with Sony’s Vision Exchange active learning solution, enabling students to bring their own device and work together, sharing content seamlessly from a phone, tablet or laptop with the screens. With each pod connected, the lecturer also has the power through Vision Exchange to share any content on the main screen at the front of the room with the rest of the class.

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The reconfigurable space takes the flexibility even further with specially designed tables allowing computer screens to fold down, instantly creating an open space for students to work in teams. With this high level of flexibility, the space allows teachers and students to experiment with new styles of learning

By opening the room out of hours and at weekends, Swansea University is also encouraging students to make use of the space to work together on assignments, discuss research and share ideas outside of structured teaching sessions.

Results to date

Following the installation, Swansea University has been overwhelmed by positive feedback from staff and students who have spent the first term of the year taking advantage of the new space. Students find it an improvement on other learning spaces, with the large majority so far rating the capabilities of the space as ‘excellent’ and with the potential to encourage new levels of social and peer-to-peer learning

By offering an ongoing training programme Swansea University is upskilling faculty members to help them get the most out of the new space and explore the potential of active learning in a practical setting.

Why Sony was selected

Having seen technology from competitors at roadshows and events, Swansea University was impressed to see the quality of Sony’s solutions and its clear focus on the unique needs of the higher education sector.

“We selected Sony after a thorough exploration of what the education technology market had to offer. Sony’s understanding of the higher education sector, its clear knowledge of the needs of lecturers and students, and its background in active learning solutions are simply unparalleled. A combination of the digital seamlessness of Vision Exchange and the physical flexibility of the space means our community of students and teachers can easily explore new ways of learning without needing to re-write their entire course,” explained Jon Burnes, Director of Information Services and Systems, Swansea University.

Eager to get the spaces up and running for the 2018/2019 academic year, Sony, GV Multimedia and Swansea University had to collaborate at pace to ensure the new lab was ready for students returning in September 2018.

Speaking about the collaboration, Damien Weissenburger from Sony said: “It’s fantastic to work with an institution like Swansea University to deliver a solution that will enhance the student learning experience and enable teaching professionals to explore new pedagogies such as Active Learning. We couldn’t be happier to hear the feedback the university has received so far, and it is a pleasure to be part of this project with an establishment that so clearly values, understands and collaborates with its community.”

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