Based in Birmingham in the West Midlands, England, Aston University Engineering Academy (AUEA) was opened in 2012 to provide vocational learning for up to 600 students from the ages of 14 to 19. Located in a modern, new-build premises, AUEA aimed to provide a cutting-edge environment for students to learn, ensuring all technology implemented added positively to either the environment or to the student learning experience. The school needed a system that could handle not only its large storage needs for asset management but would provide easy-to-use and robust tools for video streaming, digital signage, and IPTV services.
“When we opened, we had a fantastic opportunity to invest in our future; we had backing from our corporate partners and a clean slate to work with,” says AUEA’s Vice Principal Daniel Locke-Wheaton, who has been heavily involved with choosing the academy’s technology partners. “To ensure our academy was an attractive one, we knew we needed to provide our students with a modern and impressive environment to study, learn, and grow in. As part of this project we decided to invest in a digital signage system, which we saw as a vital way of communicating to our students, entertaining them in between lessons, and injecting life into communal areas.”
AUEA researched the market, assessing a number of products, but were most impressed by what they saw during a visit to Staffordshire University—Tripleplay.
“It was an incredibly simple-to-use solution; it was a business-quality system, and had all of the features and functions we believed we needed. When we spoke to the team at Staffordshire University, we knew we had found our solution,” continues Locke-Wheaton.
Tripleplay’s features include the ability to zone and group content, create scheduled and ad-hoc playlists, flexible and easily expandable deployment, simple web-based management interface, and rights-based aggregated administration.
Zoning and grouping of content in particular was hugely important as the academy’s students are separated into four colleges—Shilling, Lanchester, Hounsfield and Whittle—with each requiring its own communications messaging.
It wasn’t only the TripleSign Digital Signage solution that caught AUEA’s eye. The integrated TripleChoice Media Portal and Digital Asset Management system was a huge advantage for Tripleplay, as well.
“We have a lot of staff who operate a flipped classroom model, and as an institution, we use a phenomenal number of video files both in and out of the classroom,” Locke-Wheaton says. “When we found out that the Tripleplay system could also provide a full asset management and video streaming service too, it really opened our eyes to the possibilities we could realize with our chosen solution.”
In the past, the academy had distributed video files from a central server—a messy system that resulted in a number of duplicated items, vast use of memory and storage, and limited searchability.
“Aside from the fact we can now centrally manage this content, add meta tags for search, and create our own content libraries, a key element of the impact of this solution has been the bookmarking feature,” Locke-Wheaton says.
“We try not to use video items of over 2-3 minutes as the modern student expects short, sharp, and snappy content. Unfortunately, many of our video files are very long and it can take a lot of manually searching to find the section you wish to show. Using the bookmarking feature, this preparation can be done in advance of a lesson and accessed in seconds when delivering a lesson. We believe this alone will make a huge difference to the learning experience.”
The Tripleplay solution plays an important role in Academy life, with digital signage screens in particular being integrated into the everyday working of life at AUEA. Screens are used to show special events, student lunch menus, promote initiatives and achievement, and to enforce mobile device use restrictions.
“We have a system whereby we actively encourage the use of technology for learning, and so access to mobile devices is essential for our students. However, we also know the importance of social interaction and creating a disciplined, professional environment,” adds Locke-Wheaton.
“To help achieve this, we have created a ‘traffic light’ system, which we use the digital signage screens to enforce, so students understand if and when they can use their technology. Green allows full access, (yellow) is limited to technology for work, and when the light shows red, they know they cannot use any technology devices.”
Special events such as the Paralympic Games, Winter Olympics, and Remembrance Day celebrations have been broadcast using the TripleSign Digital Signage and TripleTV IPTV platform, helping engage students in occasions they may otherwise never be exposed to.
“Technology plays a huge part in the modern world and young people more than anybody else have grown up expecting their environment to include it,” Locke-Wheaton says. “As a forward-thinking academy, we have implemented technologies we believe enhance our offering and service to our people, and Tripleplay has been a huge part of that.”