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Enabling technologies for the next frontiers of higher education

Genesis Integration completes the detail design and build of the UAE’s most up-to-date campus.  Students learning is done digitally with classes supported by rich animated and vibrant content inline with the current social media and online streaming age.  Zayed University start using the new facility on time, successfully.

Zayed University is an educational centre of excellence in an emerging and evolving nation. Proudly bearing the name of the founder of the United Arab Emirates – the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan – it stands for innovation, inspiration, and education. 

The University was founded to prepare male and female leaders who will provide the knowledge and abilities this nation will need to enjoy a future of security and progress. It offers an academic program that prepares talented, ambitious and enthusiastic students for success in government, the arts, business, media and IT and to meet the challenges of a dynamic twenty-first century world.

In the two years leading up to July 2011 a new campus was constructed in Khalifa City and opened I the summer of 2011 in time for the fall 2011 semester. This new site was built at a cost of AED 3 billion and has 3 main campus areas, 28 buildings, a sports complex, a residential building and a convention center all of which cover a total area of 18.8 hectares.

The construction of the new campus called for the most up-to-date technology, the likes of which has not been seen before in the region.  In 2010 Genesis Integration was awarded the Audio Visual (AV) contract to integrate the latest AV technology into the new buildings.   The contract was for first class facilities from world-renowned premiere manufacturers. In order to insure the quality of this teaching facility, the majority of the manufactures used by Genesis were European and North American companies all of whom have been developing integrated multimedia technologies for decades. 

The technology: The AV contract consisted of over 508 separate systems and spaces spread over a male campus, a female campus and a world-class convention center. 

Spear over the entire campus, are more than 100 digital signs, 2 of these signs are gigantic LED screens at either the end of the “Prominade” measuring more than 20 square meters each.  The digital signage system publishes multimedia rich content to public spaces from a central Scala Content Management System, keeping students current with the happenings on campus and in the emirate.  A system like this is so valuable on a campus that is as vast with so much happening on it.

There a 33 distance learning classes, that are used to teach and receive lectures form outside the campus or country, via a site wide Polycom infrastructure. The important feature here is that all this High Definition video conferencing is controlled, monitored and scheduled centrally by the university’s IT staff, insuring the systems are working optimally.  A remote lecturing facility like this offers students access to the worlds thought leaders. Brilliant lecturers and professors spread their knowledge without the inconvenience of leaving their home city.

Several lecture theatres seat 400 students with the audio and video capacity to keep students engaged.  For lectures delivered in foreign languages, a DIS interpreter station with 150 wireless head sets exist to translate the entire session. 

The integration of technologies such as the Haivision video and digital capturing of important lecturers and their content is an incredible one.  After the automated recording and live streaming of a lectures, a catalogue of classes is prepared in the campus “cloud” for later streaming to students at home or in the campus library.  This is an enabling technology.  The use of tools such as this system from Haivision increases phenomenally a students ability to understand, retain and re-use course information, resulting in better graduates.  The Lecture capture facility is found in distance learning classrooms, advance computer labs, case rooms, conference rooms and video conference rooms, widening the net for that capture of important lectures, interviews and workshops.

The university’s convention center has, by the time of this article, already hosted the Arab League Ministers of Education Conference in their multi-function halls, equipped with the AV typical of a respected world-class conference destination.  The university facilities are so advanced, that they are also leased by industry for conferences and events that are nothing to do with curriculum. 

The largest quantity of AV technology resides in the hundreds of classrooms, case rooms and labs, where interactive white-boards and augmented sound systems are controlled from teachers desks.  There is also is a broadcast facility on campus using the latest cameras, lighting and editing suites, a necessity for todays social media, podcasting and production of student projects.

The execution of this project spanned 12 months, and Genesis produced in access of 3000 technical and plan drawings.  At its peak, Genesis Integration had close to 100 people onsite, racking over 400 AV racks, detailing 1000s of IP addresses specific to each technology and most importantly integrating with other services such lighting, alarms, energy saving systems, BMS systems, HAVC and the ELV network. 

For those who are not familiar the climate in the UAE, you may be surprised to learn that for reasons of health and safety during the summer months, to overcome the challenge of the UAE Desert heat, the Genesis Team work in night shift mode, with the rest of the project stakeholders, not seeing a full day for over 2 months.  This type of commitment was seen throughout the project, but especially in the last phase, when furniture arrives to site and final choices and changes are incorporated onto the 100s of systems onsite.

Enabling technologies such as the ones described in this article are serious tools that move students forward exponentially.  Students come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own learning styles.  So, to move to better efficiencies teaching needs supported by rich animated and vibrant content to keep the students interest, while having an online copy of the lesson for asynchronous learning. Play back on PCs, iPADs or even telephones make learning and paper writing incredibly fast.  The whole digital environment surrounding the students, is sculpted to make them feel they are moving at the pace of the electrons that light up their networks.  Clear, well balanced sound systems make the immersion in lectures more engaging and exciting.  Ultimately, everything being in digital format, brings our Zayed University to the level Social Media engagement one might find in Stanford university, close Silicon valley, where it all started.  Ofcourse technology is not only for students, faculty recruitment via video conference allows a more in-depth probing of more potential faculty members than ever before, it also allows a wider range of selection from Canada to Iceland.  Digital Course Content is easier to review and compare with the highest benchmarks. 

The conclusion:  Zayed University AV, Digital Signage and Class Capture Project was a tight and demanding one, delivered by Genesis Integration in time for the educational semester, with training and on going maintenance and onsite support.  Today, students, faculty and industry use these enabling technologies to optimize their presentation and learning experience in lectures, workgroups and laboratory work.


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