NTU Creates Innovative Learning Environment with Extron XTP Systems & TouchLink Pro Control

Nanyang Technological University – NTU has become a leader in collaborative learning with the completion of the Hive learning hub at their Singapore campus. Located within the South Spine of the campus’ new eight-story building, it features a flexible lecture facility and classrooms designed on a flipped pedagogy model. The premise behind this model is to have students study the lesson in advance and then use lecture time for interactive learning among small groups as well as between the instructor and the class. Innovative technology is vital to support this modern approach to education. After evaluating various solutions offered by industry leaders, the integrator, 01 Computer of Singapore, selected Extron XTP Systems ® and Pro Series control products to implement the flipped classroom model.

NTU has been using Extron AV equipment on campus since the early nineties, and they wanted that same high performance and reliability for their new Hive learning hub.

Loh Beng Choon, Senior Manager of AV Solutions at 01 Computer of Singapore

XTP Systems Enable Flipped Classroom Model

For the 56 classrooms within the Hive, the basic design is the same. The room layout provides seating for six students at five, six, or 10 tables, depending on room size, and includes a flat panel display by each table. The main display is a projection system. The lectern, referred to as the Teacher Console, offers local sources, AV connectivity for portable devices, and control of the installation. Each classroom uses an XTP System for AV signal routing. The University selected the XTP System for many reasons. The modularity and performance of the XTP CrossPoint ® matrix switchers provided support for digital and analog sources and ensured high quality signal distribution regardless of the type of portable device brought into the classroom, including both digital and analog sources. There was also familiarity with many of its included digital technologies, which allowed for implementation of comprehensive EDID and HDCP strategies for managing the diverse equipment used within the Hive. Additionally, the capability to power remote endpoints over the same CATx cable used for AV and control signals streamlined integration by reducing equipment needs and installation time per room. These capabilities led NTU to select XTP Systems as the best solution for their flipped classroom model.

Each classroom has an Extron XTP CrossPoint 1600 rack mounted within the teacher console, and is populated with an appropriate mix of input and output boards to accommodate the size of the space. As an example, the XTP CrossPoint matrix switcher in a five-table classroom is configured as 12x8. It supports the classroom devices controlled from the console plus transmissions to and from the student tables. The installation standardized on XTP CP 4i twisted pair boards for support of all inputs within the system. This configuration gave an optimized approach that supported the widest possible variety of signal types as well as provided flexibility to incorporate specific transmitters to support the varying number of source devices in different locations.

The team downloaded XTP System Configuration Software for setup and commissioning of the system. The complete view of the entire system from a single window and the ability to make selections from individually tabbed sections simplified the tasks of configuring endpoints, setting EDID, assigning remote power, and making I/O selections. The Backup Systems Settings feature came in very handy since it allowed configurations to be duplicated throughout the University across same sized rooms. Afterwards, the software was loaded onto the IT computers, and used for real-time system monitoring and remote classroom assistance.

TouchLink Control at the Teacher Console

The console includes an HDMI laptop, a desktop computer with VGA video and audio output, a document camera with VGA output, AV connectivity for personal source devices, along with a touchpanel for AV system control. The Extron XTP T VGA extends AV signals from the desktop computer, embedding any audio into the XTP ® signal stream for transmission to the matrix switcher. An Extron XTP T USW 103 three input transmitter is used to switch and extend signals from the visualizer and auxiliary inputs. It is configured for auto-switching for simplified operation.

Also mounted within the console rack is the Extron IN1508 presentation switcher and a recording system. The eight-input switcher is used to scale presented and shared images to a resolution of 1920x1200 for delivery to the recorder. The seamless switching capability eliminated the possibility of visible jumps or other issues that could impact the quality of the presentations and recording. Currently, the material is being captured for archival purposes only.

To encourage participation and collaboration, students needed to not only hear the instructor but also understand classmates asking questions and sharing information from other areas of the room. Installed in the same rack is the sound system that includes the Extron MVC 121 Plus Three Input Stereo Mixer with DSP. In addition to supporting the recording system, the mixer sends audio signals to the Extron MPA 401 amplifier for distribution to an appropriate number of speakers for the space. “From previous experience, we knew that the MPA 401 was reliable and can be on for long periods without generating excessive heat,” says Loh Beng Choon.

Extron SI 3CT LP full-range ceiling speakers provide high quality sound reproduction within each room. The AV system design team selected this particular model for several reasons. The conical baffle offers 170° dispersion, eliminating beaming directly under the speakers and ensuring consistent sound levels across the listening area. The 4" back can on this plenum rated speaker allowed each unit to be installed into the shallow air return space above the ceiling without the need for a special enclosure, which decreased project costs. Installation of the SI 3CT LP also meant fewer speakers needed per classroom.

The original design specified an Extron TLP 710 TouchLink ® touchpanel mounted to the console; however, based on the projected future needs of the University, the team installed the latest TouchLink Pro version instead. The Extron TLP Pro 720M provides faster processing and more available memory than the originally scoped model. The instructors also appreciate the automatic adjustment of screen brightness when room lighting is dimmed. The interface on the touchpanel’s 7" touch screen, customized for the flipped classroom model, and the contemporary design of the TLP Pro 720M complement the sophisticated style of the Hive as well.

The Extron ECP Certified members of the integration team used Global Configurator™ Professional Software to configure the touchpanel and the rack-mounted Extron IPCP Pro 550 control processor. According to one team member, the powerful advanced configuration features of GC Pro combined with the speed and flexibility of the IPCP Pro processor allowed quick examination and assignment of button action conditions. This further streamlined system integration within the 56 classrooms.

XTP T USW 103 Switcher at Each Student Table

Each table offers AV connectivity for portable devices. To share content, a Samsung ® DB40D 40" Slim Direct-Lit LED display is mounted on the closest wall. An XTP T USW 103 switcher is mounted beneath each table to support students with HDMI and VGA source devices. An Extron two-button controller connects to the XTP T USW switcher, making it easy for students to select the desired HDMI or VGA input.

For supplemental instruction and to effectively share content from a particular table with the rest of the class, the room includes a projection system that uses a ceiling-mounted Sony ® VPL SW630 ultra short throw projector.

To support room displays, an Extron XTP R HDMI receiver is mounted to the back of each flat panel display and an XTP scaling receiver is secured to the projector mount. The panels accept 1920x1080, and the XTP SR HDMI scales images to the projector’s native resolution of WXGA (1280x800). Both models are used for extension of AV and control signals throughout the room from the matrix switcher. “The low profile of the XTP receivers allowed us to hide them behind the flat panels, which kept the installation neat and less vulnerable to vandalism,” says Loh Beng Choon.

The farthest destination endpoint from the XTP CrossPoint matrix switcher is approximately 130 feet (40 meters), well within the 330 feet (100 meters) transmission distance capability of XTP extenders. The bidirectional RS-232 control ports on the transmitters, receivers, and I/O boards facilitated a simple way to insert control for monitoring and operation of equipment within the room. This design choice reduced the number of independent cables needed in each classroom, further streamlining the design and integration.

Innovation that Inspires

NTU spared no expense in constructing and equipping this technologically advanced building. Response to the Hive from the students and the staff has been equally enthusiastic. Standardization of room layout and AV system design fosters a high level of comfort and familiarity, and it also enables the IT staff to quickly troubleshoot a system and provide support to those new to the facility. The 56 classrooms are in constant use. Extron XTP Systems and professional-grade control products have contributed to the complete success of the University's flipped classroom model, enhancing the scholastic experience within the Hive learning hub at Nanyang Technological University.

“Extron always has the right product mix and provides excellent support, helping us with equipment or simply answering a question,” says Loh Beng Choon at 01 Computer. “From the earliest phase through system commissioning, Extron was by our side.”

Extron XTP Systems® support 56 flipped classrooms at NTU’s Hive learning hub.

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