Sunday, 6 February 2011

ISE 2011 conversations

I recently visited ISE 2011 and met with many colleagues from the HE sector, mainly SCHOMS members. It was, as usual, a large trade show with too much to take in my short stay, but what I targeted was useful.

I was surprised by how many colleagues are now increasingly involved in the overall design of a space and not just the technology within. However I was also not surprised by how many colleagues are consulted about a project very late on or not at all.  This was highlighted recently by a forum discussion on LTSMG about induction loops where advice was not even sought at two places and ignored at others on cost grounds , IR was fitted, even though the IR units are never used but they comply. So much for providing a service!

Why is it that universities employ experts and then choose to ignore their advice, or worse, don't even ask for it?
Regardless of how skilled we may become in the merging disciplines of space design if we are not at the picnic we can't share our sandwiches.

How is it at your institution? It would be interesting to know. Hopefully the SCHOMS benchmarking survey due out soon will provide some answers.

I had mixed feelings about my conversations. Positive about the recognition that some AV\IT people are being involved in the holistic design process of learning and teaching spaces early on, frustration that it is not happening enough and incredulous that it is not consistent even within the same institution on occasions.


  1. After 20 months of slogging, I'm slowly managing to change things at Hull. I now have an OLA in place with Facilities which mandates consultation processes with ICT for any project which involves technology. This is a major leap forward when you consider that most of our key Facilities people don't really get the strategic importance of technology; they just see it as an extravagance.

    I've also invested a lot of time trying to identify technology and space design champions within the university and have had little success until this week. I've contacted faculty heads of learning and teaching asking them to identify their most innovative lecturers but with little response or interest. I've set up my own teaching space user group and publicised it widely but again had a disappointing response from academic staff. Then this week I muscled my way into an academic workshop on eLearning and hit the motherload! Here were all the people I'd been looking for, yet no one in the university seemed to know they existed. They were all delighted to have someone from ICT attend one of their events saying they'd been trying to get us to attend "for years".

    I heard a load of good ideas at this workshop and it's given me quite a boost to know that I have at last found some colleagues who are keen to make things happen.

  2. Darcy
    The scenario you describe is all to common. As you say you had to 'muscle your way onto' a workshop.
    In defenced of the academic staff they are often not consulted by the project teams either often resulting in a space that suits nobody well in an effort to achieve 'flexibility', what ever that means.
    Keep chipping away Darcy the penny will drop one day that projects need the likes of you to be included at an early stage if they are to be a success.

  3. Hi Nigel,

    Not sure when you will pick this up now that you are on your wild adventure!

    On the IR subject, we had a situation where we had to have every room compliant by a certain date. As we were not in a position to go to the expense of installing phased array loops in rooms where there may be a run of 7 or even 9 rooms along a corridor, with more teaching rooms above and below we were forced down the IR route. Syphony Hall and many of the City's theatres use IR very successully so it was seen as a way forward. Now we have addressed (nearly) all of the issues relating to the quality of facilities to support the delivery of teaching in the classroom, we are now in a position where we can turn our attention to hearing loops once again. Last summer we installed phased array loops in 2 of our largest lecture theatres as they were being refurbished. These are working well and so now we have specified these loops for the spaces we are developing in the summer and will continue to replace IR as part of our rolling programme of refurbishment and upgrade.

    As for the "right" people being at the table to get the design of our learning spaces right from the start, we have a "Learning Environment Design Group" here and I know that Az and Simon have set up similar groups. I think these groups should act as a sub set of SCHOMS and perhaps the groups occasionally meet over VC to share thoughts, ideas and problems in this specific area.



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