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University of the West of England Cuts Travel Costs With Polycom Video Collaboration

This week, unified communications vendor Polycom announced that the University of the West of England (UWE) is providing Polycom RealPresence video collaboration solutions to staff and students across its network of campuses. UWE is one of the largest universities in the United Kingdom, offering more than 600 courses at undergraduate, postgraduate, and short-course levels, with 30,000 student and 3,000 staff spread over four campuses in and around Bristol.

The university is creating a high-definition global video network to connect its campuses with partner universities and colleges located throughout Europe, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the US. This video network is part of a larger £300 million (approximately $465 million) investment to overhaul its global information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and improve the student experience. The ICT transformation program includes a network infrastructure from HP as well as Micosoft Lync unified communications and Polycom RealPresence implementations.

“As a large organization with many international partners, we needed to connect our diverse communities with technologies that would help save time and costs,” said Steve Grive, UWE's director of information communications technology, in a prepared statement. “With HP’s help, we were able to use Polycom video collaboration solutions and Microsoft Lync to transform communications across our global network, as well as between students and staff.”

Using Microsoft Lync, users can click on a name on their contact list and instantly meet with a colleague face-to-face via Polycom video. UWE has also installed nine video collaboration suites featuring Polycom RealPresence HDX 7000 and HDX 4000 Room Telepresence Solutions, strategically placed in every campus facility around Bristol and Gloucester.

Reduced Travel Costs
When an international university launches a distance learning program associated with UWE, there can be more than six validation meetings a year, with as many as five university staff members flying out to help develop material and validate the degree. By meeting face-to-face virtually using Polycom video collaboration instead, UWE has reduced validation travel costs by about £100,000 (approximately $155,000) per year. In addition, UWE has consistently been rated as First Class in the People and Planet Green League (a ranking of UK universities' environmental and ethical performance) and is certified with the Carbon Trust Standard.

Other benefits include:

  • Increasing student and staff productivity. Staff can make video calls on their desktops and laptops to conduct face-to-face meetings easily with any other staff members anywhere in the world. Students can meet with tutors online, instead of walking between one of four campuses.
  • Enabling distance learning. Video collaboration is used for distance learning interactions between UWE staff and international students; for example, when an international college in Asia is running a master’s program associated with UWE and a student wants an interview with his tutor.
  • Reducing "double teaching." By using the video recording, archiving, and streaming playback capabilities of the Polycom RealPresence Platform, the UWE has eliminated the costs associated with “double teaching,” where a lecture has to be held twice to accommodate all interested students. Now the lecture can be viewed in different venues both synchronously and on-demand.

Polycom is showcasing its RealPresence Video Solutions this week at InfoComm 2012 in Las Vegas.

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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