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How University of Chester overcame the challenge of hybrid learning

By Nureva on May 27, 2024 6:00:00 AM
How University of Chester overcame the challenge of hybrid learning

This customer story was originally published by Ascentae, our UK distributor.

The University of Chester is made up of multiple sites, with the main site in Chester and various buildings dotted around the city. It also has sites around the North-West and beyond, as far as Warrington, Birkenhead and Shrewsbury.

With many different geographical locations — and a lot of students and lecturers moving between them — it was a regular occurrence for lecturers to be traveling to teach the same material at different sites.

Before COVID, the university was exploring ways to deliver lessons once from one location and broadcast it to the other sites at the same time. This would be better for the students and for staff, who would not have to repeat their session.

Initially, the university was looking at a webinar solution suited to a bigger scale. The solution needed to work in lecture theaters so that the students attending in person could be captured and Q&A was enabled between them and the lecturers.

The search for technology to achieve this began in 2020 with a visit to ISE, the world’s leading AV and systems integration exhibition. It was there they discovered Nureva and first met the Ascentae team.

The biggest hybrid learning challenges


The University of Chester told us it faced two challenges.

Firstly, pre-COVID, they were making heavy use of more traditional videoconferencing, with a limited setup of Skype for Business.

The university wanted to find a single, consistent solution — something easy to set up, easy to use and easy to support. Their research suggested the individual tools were out there, but they could not find an all-embracing single solution.

Secondly, as the university went through the pandemic it began thinking about future approaches to teaching. They wanted Ascentae to help with finding a modern hybrid learning solution.

Like any other education institution, the University of Chester wanted a good compromise between quality, ease of use and price.

Mark Sargison, the university’s AV Development and Support Manager, said the solution needed to overcome some big challenges:

      • Allow teaching to be delivered across multiple sites, to improve the teaching and learning experience.
      • Enable the university’s AV team to support consistently and, preferably, remotely (to avoid busy journeys between sites).
      • Technology which was simple to use and did not require much training as an academic’s main priority is teaching.
      • Enhance the students’ learning experience whilst providing value for money.

Mark Sargison at the University of Chester explains why he chose Nureva audio

Sargison said: “We didn’t want any one single room to dictate teaching too much. We wanted something that could support different teaching styles and different learning styles, to try to keep everyone happy. We wanted something we could put everywhere that would be relatively easy to use but also give us value for money.”

Putting Nureva to the test

AV leaders from University of Chester visited ISE in 2020, visited stands and talked to some exhibitors, including Nureva and the Ascentae team. They evaluated a number of products from different brands and left very impressed by a demo of Nureva’s audio solutions.

Back in the U.K. two months later, we arranged for the university to have a follow-up online demonstration of Nureva’s HDL soundbar and innovative Microphone Mist™ technology.

Sargison said: “We tested medium to large spaces, using Teams to capture lectures rather than a bespoke lecture capture system. We wanted to test creating synchronized content with mics regardless of people’s position in the room, with the lecturer miked up, and how the system handled streaming, multiple user cases and sound quality.”

That demo with Ascentae convinced the University of Chester to choose Nureva.

Ascentae gives a live demo of Nureva audio

The choice

The university explored and had demos of audio solutions from other brands. Sargison explained why the university chose Nureva.

“We did consider other systems but we thought it was more complex, more costly and offered less support than Nureva. Another solution just amplified the air-conditioning noise, which was awful.

“But Nureva, the Nureva HDL system, delivered a perfect demo.

“Straight away, we were really impressed with the product and how the technology worked. Initially, I was skeptical about whether the Microphone Mist technology would make a difference — but the audio quality was incredibly good.

“The HDL system got rid of air-conditioning noise in the background within seconds. The recording was so acoustically clear. At one point, a few of the team were standing apart in the room and talking. It was like they were all standing in the same spot because the sound quality on the recording was so consistent.”

University of Chester classroom

Living up to the promise

The University of Chester didn’t rush into things. With advice from Ascentae, the sensible option for them was to begin with a couple of units. This allowed them to test Nureva’s systems in real-world teaching — and prove their capability to the rest of the institution before scaling.

The university now has Nureva audio working across 65 rooms across multiple sites.

Sargison said: “When you choose a solution you want to be sure you have made the right choice.

“We were wondering whether the sound quality would be consistent across all the different rooms we had. Would it be as easy to use for staff as our technicians found it to be? Would we end up having a lot of tech issues and calls for support? Was this Microphone Mist technology going to work across all sites as well as it did in the demos?

“Based on how it has performed right from the start, we are very, very happy with Nureva.”

The AV team at University of Chester were happy. But what about lecturers, staff and students?

University of Chester classroom

The verdict

Sargison said: “Since we put in the Nureva audio solution, we have not had a lot of feedback — and that’s a very good thing. In our experience, when you hear, it is usually negative feedback, so we take no news as good news. The feedback we have had has all been good.

“Students have expectations and staff have expectations, of the room and of the technology. It just has to work to deliver the right experience for everyone, including visiting speakers.”

The University of Chester told Ascentae they needed something that was easily transferable and understandable between its range of users. Something that could be replicated easily, did not require too much training, and was reliable and easy for any member of the AV team to support.

Sargison’s verdict? “We’re very happy that this solution ticks all those boxes.”

Nureva HDL300 audio system at the University of Chester

The outcome and future plans

The University of Chester uses Microsoft® Teams with Nureva integrated into rooms, via a USB switch on the lectern. Lecturing staff and visiting speakers can also put their laptop on the lectern, plug in a cable and connect to the Nureva system as a BYOD option.

Ascentae continues to offer support and advice for the university as it expands its hybrid teaching, hybrid learning and asynchronous content creation capabilities.

Sargison said: “We are very, very happy with Nureva as an audio solution. The core functionality is so solid. It gives us the confidence to build on that, without having to rush. We will work with Ascentae and with Nureva to grow the relationship, and to grow our use of the products.”

Having attended ISE 2023, the university is now looking into the new connect module, room cameras and new Nureva products, like the HDL310 and HDL410, as future upgrades.

Sargison added: “We started to use AVer cameras and are excited about the possibilities to drive the experiences we want to deliver, through integrations between AVer and Nureva solutions.”

How user friendly is Nureva?

The university’s AV team told Ascentae that Nureva’s technology is very easy to install and integrate into its existing setup. Nureva has now become standard in particular rooms and room types.

Sargison said: “Nureva is very good and it is very positive how little [negative] feedback we have had about this. We know the support from our integration team at Roche AV, Ascentae and Nureva is there but it’s been needed very little. And when we have needed any support it’s been excellent.

“The university is moving toward more active learning — it’s the way teaching is going. There is still a place for the traditional lecture, but small group work, flipped classroom and other approaches are seen to be better and more engaging — and more the kind of thing students want.

“We want tools that can support different teaching styles and different learning styles. Nureva is helping us to deliver on that.”

Topics: Higher education Hybrid learning Our customers