Linda Headford tells us about the IT work which was done to get the Heart of the Campus building ready for staff and students
In IS&T, we dream that one day we’ll be asked to install the IT infrastructure into a new building and actually have the allotted time to finish it. However, as is the way with building projects, there are usually last minute snagging issues to sort out and there is inevitably a rush to get everything completed. Like everyone else involved in such projects we often find our work schedule truncated. As IT is always the last thing to be installed, we’re always working down to the wire.
The migration, disposal and installation of IT equipment for Development & Society, Security and Student Services from their old buildings to the new and splendid Heart of the Campus building at Collegiate was no exception. With one and a half weeks knocked off our original 4 week installation schedule we had to get a wriggle on, working weekends and the Bank Holiday, to make the deadlines. And all this at what is probably the busiest time of the year for IS&T staff.
The installation wasn’t, of course, the start. Prior to that we’d had months of collaborative planning with the Faculty of Development & Society, Facilities Directorate, architects, and building contractors.
The IS&T teams – Managed Desktop, Networks, Telecoms, and the Collegiate IT Support team – were kept busy testing, anticipating possible issues and working on contingency plans. During installation we all worked amidst a beehive of electricians, furniture fitters, and painters. For the first week we were literally following the contractors around the offices installing as the paint was drying, the furniture was put in place and the network was made live.
Throughout the 3-storey building we patched, imaged, and installed an IT, AV and telecoms infrastructure to support over 200 staff and research students.
Next on the agenda were the meeting and seminar rooms, teaching rooms, lecture theatres, specialist research areas and labs and student social spaces.
The project provided a number of new opportunities and challenges for IS&T:
1) Due to the new open-plan working environment in HOTC, academic staff were given the choice of a PC or a laptop system to deliver the Managed Desktop. Nearly 100 staff chose the laptop option. While this type of system (laptop/docking station and monitor) has been installed sporadically over the last few years, it has never been installed as a means to provide a cohesive and integrated environment, or in such numbers.
2) The new Unified Comms system (where the phone provides the access point to the network) provided a major challenge. While a considerable amount of planning and testing was conducted prior to installation, reality kicks up challenges that can’t be foreseen or tested, and the remote working that has been the norm over the past few years reverted to a lot of “hands on” support . Although it’s early days, the extra effort IS&T put in seems to have paid off. It’s been a big learning curve for us all and one we are closely monitoring so that future issues can be pre-empted.
3) Although not totally new, the “Follow Me” printing service has been rolled out across the building to both staff and students. As this system allows staff and students to print to the nearest printer it is a key advantage when using mobile devices, such as laptops.
4) A new “Smart Locker” system is being introduced for student laptop loans. Forty of these laptops will be available as an on-demand service. The lockers provide self-issue through the student’s SHU-card, and details are added to their Learning Centre account.
Additionally, the new building provided the opportunity to enhance and update some of the existing specialist research equipment:
- The introduction of a Faraday cage to house the EEG equipment
- An updated Eye Tracking system
- Two new 10-seat Psychology testing suites
- An observation suite providing state-of-the-art media recording facilities for students
- Two of the large staff meeting rooms have up-to-date conference facilities
- The impressive 220-seat lecture theatre fitted with surround sound, and a projection room
- The purpose-built Moot Court with media recording and observation facilities
We’re delighted with the end result and have had some lovely feedback from staff about the work we did. It all helps to make going the extra mile feel worthwhile. Let’s hope the students love the building and all the new facilities as much as we think they will.