The purchase of General Electric’s former global headquarters by Sacred Heart University in 2016 kicked off a transformational expansion. SHU called on the audiovisual expertise of Video Corporation or America to advance learning technology with state-of-the-art classrooms and a striking lobby adorned with video wall towers that reach up into the ceiling.
Adding GE’s 550,00 square-foot grounds to SHU was just the latest iteration in a longstanding relationship between the two Connecticut institutions.
The University’s Business School is named after GE’s former CEO, Jack Welch, and many students have interned and gone on to employment at GE. “When GE left Connecticut, it gave us a great opportunity to have a large facility that we can grow into for the future, right down the street from our existing facilities,” said Joe Sokoloski, manager of learning technology at Sacred Heart.
Designated as SHU’s West Campus, the extension encompasses a School of Computing and a College of Education with plans to add a performing arts recital hall and more. This first phase of the retrofit produced a mix of classrooms, large and small, computer labs, a conference room, and the lobby video walls. Overall, this project represented a new iteration of classrooms retrofitted on the main campus, but with the latest technology focused around Crestron’s DigitalMedia infrastructure.
The West Campus lobby greets visitors with a stunning display of video wall towers, pillars with content on all four sides. They span floor to ceiling and seemingly beyond with a unique mirrored effect at the top. Audio accompanies the content from overhead speakers. The vision was to have a bit of flash welcoming students, “adding a really nice verticality to the entrance to the main space,” Sokoloski said.
The overall design is a 4×4 video wall with a 4K video signal extended to daisy-chained displays. The configuration required each tower to be treated as one monitor with 16 segments.
The built-in video wall processing in the Samsung displays helped configure the integration with Dataton’s Media Server. Crestron’s 3-Series (CP3N) processor was selected for its ability to create a control subnet separate from the university’s LAN and for its three RS232 ports for two-way device control and monitoring. A Crestron TSW-1060-B-S 10.1″ touch panel is located in the AV rack for control. Video extension to each wall is performed by Crestron’s DM-TX-4K-202-C transmitter with Crestron DM-RMC-4K-100-C receivers. These were selected for their ability to pass 4K UHD at 30Hz (3840 x 2160), as well as passing the RS232 control signal for the displays over a single DigitalMedia cable.
The two video walls feature a total of 32 Samsung UM55H-E, 55″ displays with narrow bezels at 1.7mm. Custom mounts were provided by RP Visual Solutions. The 4K content is managed by a Dataton Watchpax 4 Media Server. Audio is processed by a Biamp Nexia-SP DSP system with eight JBL Control-26CT recessed ceiling speakers, four at each tower location, one speaker on each side of the tower.
While the video wall towers are certainly the showpiece of SHU’s West Campus, the highlight of the classrooms is the TEAL room type, which stands for technology-enabled active learning. The TEAL rooms provide SHU faculty with a host of capabilities, including wireless collaboration with Crestron AirMedia and much more.
“What [the TEAL classrooms] allow us to do is take any source, route it to any display, record one of those displays, share content between groups, or have groups work on specific a set of content,” Sokoloski said. “There’s also an annotation capability for the teacher to say, ‘This is working. This isn’t working. This is where I think you need to focus.’” The effect is to have groups focus on a specific piece of data, “but then also share that with the other groups in the room to make it a holistic experience.”
Lecture capture permits professors to record the class, and using microphones placed around each work area, student questions are included to further enhance the out-of-class learning. “With this technology, teachers have an opportunity to record their classrooms for students to re-watch and dive back into the class,” Sokoloski said. “it certainly helps them prepare for their midterms and just to touch on the finer points that they might have missed in class.”
These capabilities help extend Sacred Heart’s classroom to connect with people around the world. Additionally, content can be transcribed, so students with learning disabilities can read the curriculum versus hearing it, for those that respond better to this form of learning.
Beyond the TEAL rooms, a simple single-screen classroom type supports a more traditional environment, and the computer labs have two screens for the ability to compare and contrast data. The computers are retractable, so the room can be used as a standard classroom as needed.
The 4K video wall towers make for a really unique entrance to Sacred Heart’s new West Campus. They also provide SHU flexibility to present creative and artistic content, with plans to engage students further in the process with internships at the media services department.
The classrooms provide professors with a range of useful new tools to reinforce the learning that happens inside the classroom to extend well beyond the walls. Students say they love being able to go back and dig deeper into a subject that they know is going to be on an exam. Students with learning disabilities are provided with an additional level of capabilities to accommodate varying methods of learning.