- Facility: Saint Louis University
- Vertical: Education
- Location: St. Louis, Missouri
- Challenges: Communicating with students campus-wide and displaying critical images for medical lectures in an auditorium unable to house a high-end projector
- Solution: 55” NEC X551UN, 46” NEC X462UN, 46” V462 and 55” V551 Displays; PA500U Projectors
- Result: Quicker and more effective campus communication during emergency situations and a cutting-edge, lower total cost of ownership display solution for the auditorium
- Date: 2006 (ongoing)
Since 1818, Saint Louis University (SLU) has fostered the intellectual and character development of thousands of students. And recently, it has begun doing so in a cutting-edge learning environment unlike any other.
More than a dozen colleges, schools and degree-granting centers comprise the university, which also has a Madrid campus recognized by Spain's higher education authority as an official foreign university—the first U.S. institution to hold this endorsement.
As an acknowledged leader in healthcare education, SLU holds the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi and performing the region’s first human heart transplant. It has been nationally recognized as a leading school for law, entrepreneurship, health management and more.
In 2006, SLU achieved another milestone when it built its Chaifetz Arena, where it hosts more than 90 events every year, including shows, concerts, tradeshows, student commencements, and its men’s and women’s basketball games. The arena also is home to many of the university’s recent technological advancements. During its design, SLU worked with leading technology and audio-visual solutions provider TSI Global
Most recently, the university attained an institutional goal of advancing its technological efforts and supporting a 21st century learning environment for its students.
After seeing the success of the advancements made during the building of the Chaifetz Arena, SLU continued to partner with TSI Global for multi-faceted AV projects across campus. In June 2008, SLU began looking to update and enhance its existing emergency communications system that it used to correspond with students in times of crisis. The university wanted a solution that would catch students’ attention in highly trafficked areas of the campus, and that would be capable of providing information on upcoming events and courses during non-urgent times.
"SLU is committed to investing in the latest technology to enhance the overall experience for our students,” said Craig Williams, manager of multimedia services at SLU. “And part of this includes finding the best ways possible to mass communicate with students in the event of a crisis, such as school shootings or approaching hazardous weather.”
In May 2011, SLU also wanted to bring technologic innovations into the classroom, starting with the Health Science Campus Education Union Auditorium. With professors and students relying heavily on medical images, SLU began looking for ways to display images and lecture materials in the 225-seat auditorium.
“The design of the auditorium was restrictive and incapable of housing a top-of-the-line projector adept at displaying high-resolution medical photos,” said Paul Murdick, president of TSI Technology Solutions. “In addition, the school did not have a projection room available for the magnitude of such a high-end projector. Plus, the projector’s noise would be un-conducive to a critical learning environment.”
Murdick and SLU’s multimedia team realized they needed to develop an alternative solution to a high-lumen projector. To sustain SLU’s critical learning environment, the solution needed to be determined, designed and implemented during the summer months, in time for the fall semester.
TSI Global and SLU began implementing digital signage networks across campus in 2009 to mass communicate with students, and it has been an ongoing process ever since. Twenty-four screens from NEC Display Solutions have been installed in the lobbies of campus residence halls, student lounges, the recreation center and within different academic buildings.
The team selected 46” NEC V462 and 55” V551 displays due to their reliability, ease-of-use and ability to operate 24x7.The displays have been useful in communicating with students and faculty members, especially in emergency situations. For example, in early fall 2011, tornadoes were spotted around the St. Louis area, and university officials spread news and tips for caution across the signage network.
Meanwhile, NEC PA500U projectors were chosen to standardize all classroom applications as specified by the university. These models also are used in small 100-seat auditoriums. They were selected for their quality, high resolutions, three-year warranties, longevity (up to 4,000 hours of lamp and filter life), 5,000-lumens of brightness and reasonable cost.
Having experienced success with digital signage since the ongoing implementation which began in 2006 and realizing success with NEC projectors, TSI and SLU turned to NEC for a solution to the challenge it was facing with the auditorium in the School of Medicine.
“After looking at all of the different areas of the auditorium where images could be shown, we determined a video wall could replace a high-end projector,” Williams said. “However, the position of the images displayed was critical, and we knew the wall would have to be near seamless.”
Murdick recalled seeing a video wall from NEC at a tradeshow. It was made up of 46” displays with ultra-narrow bezels, providing the near-seamless look SLU desired.
“We looked at the return on investment, comparing a video wall to a high-end projector and discovered significant savings,” Murdick said. “We found that installing a video wall within the auditorium would save SLU $35,000 over a five-year period compared to the maintenance of a projector.”
TSI Global worked with SLU in the design of a 5x5 video wall configuration, which included 25 NEC X462UN ultra-narrow LCD displays. The bezel of the displays boasts a screen-to-screen distance between two neighboring displays of only 7.3mm, providing a near seamless view. The displays also provided a native resolution of 1360 x 768, which is critical for displaying high-resolution images.
The NEC displays offered industrial-strength, premium-grade panels with additional thermal protection, essential since the video wall would run for 12 hours a day during scheduled class times. Prior to the installation, the multimedia team sat down with professors to demonstrate and discuss the proposed implementation.
“The instructors were concerned about having the lines from the screens interrupting the displayed images,” said Williams. “The big test was to show them a small video wall. After seeing the sharpness of the images, they were impressed. And once the installation was completed, the staff and students were amazed to see how the bezel lines disappeared once they grew accustomed to looking at the screens.”
Selecting NEC was a rather simple choice for TSI Global and SLU since the displays offered the thinnest bezels on the market, and it was familiar with the reliability of the products from the digital signage implementations across campus. Additionally, NEC’s award-winning Star Student program was an advantage for SLU because it allowed the acquisition of several displays and projectors without straining the university’s budget.
Currently, SLU has more than 130 NEC displays on campus. After receiving positive reactions from professors and students using the video wall, SLU implemented 2x2 video walls in some other classrooms, along with a 6x3 configuration in one of its learning centers.
SLU plans to install digital signage in eight more campus buildings in 2012. The university also is going to add a 5x5 video wall in another auditorium using 55” NEC X551UN ultra-narrow displays.
“We’re on the cutting edge of technology, and the students realize this,” said Williams. “The technological advancements around campus have been exciting, and we are proud that we are one of the first higher education institutions to install video walls for use in the classroom."