Ulster University embraces digital workflows in the delivery of its Virtual Campus!
An innovation based on a triumphant, three-time award-winning student project!
Ulster University is constantly exploring inventive approaches to elevate the student experience. In September 2022, the university underwent a significant relocation, transferring approximately 15,000 students and staff members from Jordanstown to its newly constructed Belfast campus. Consequently, the university aimed to facilitate a smooth transition and enhance the overall student experience.
The Virtual Campus project was initiated, drawing inspiration from award-winning student projects that originated within the Belfast School of Architecture & the Built Environment. The project emerged as a proactive measure to support students by offering innovative tools to familiarise them with teaching and learning spaces.
The goal of the project was to empower students to establish a profound connection with their campus, strongly emphasising well-being and engagement. The Virtual Campus project encourages users to virtually explore key areas on campus including lecture theatres, teaching spaces, sports facilities and accessible locations.
Led by students from the BSc (Hons) Architectural Technology and Management programme undertaking their Professional Practice (Placement) module, the Virtual Campus project showcases the remarkable talent within the Belfast School of Architecture & the Built Environment. The use of Autodesk Revit software initially allowed the existing Belfast campus models to be accessed, linked, and viewed with the internal arrangement and finishes of identified spaces then updated where necessary. Bespoke Autodesk Revit families were created to help replicate some of the finished areas on campus. Autodesk Revit plugins were also used as part of the workflow. The plugins enabled point cloud data of finished spaces captured using a laser scanner, to be used in the software, allowing comparisons to be made against the existing linked models.
A separate plugin facilitated the creation of the virtual reality outputs for each space. Autodesk Revit software is currently being used to create models of key spaces at other Ulster University campus locations in Coleraine and Derry/Londonderry. The project also uses Autodesk Construction Cloud (ACC) and Autodesk BIM Collaborate Pro as part of its workflow to ensure effective collaboration between team members and coordination of the cloud models. Being a student-led project, having initial support and being able to draw upon the knowledge and experience of the team at Pentagon Solutions helped ensure that the project was created in a way that mirrored real-world practice. This provided an invaluable learning experience for the placement students as well as meeting the project requirements.
The use of the AEC Collection and Autodesk BIM Collaborate Pro was crucial in the delivery of the project. The use of cloud models and the ability to workshare proved especially beneficial in managing the project and assisted with establishing efficient and collaborative working processes.
The Virtual Campus project serves as a significant Ulster University wellbeing and engagement tool within departments and enables users from anywhere in the world to virtually explore the campus, providing them with exclusive access to specialist spaces. The project, named winner of the ‘Excellence in Workplace Health & Wellbeing’ award at the Digital Construction Live Awards, also proudly received funding from the Department for the Economy’s Step Up project. This funding allowed for further Ulster University spaces to be represented, marking a significant step forward in the project’s expansion and impact.
Ulster University takes pride in offering a distinctive experience through this student-led project. Thanks to the Autodesk tools and on-going support from Pentagon Solutions, the immersive platform developed fosters engagement and leaves a lasting impression on students, staff and visitors alike. With the ability to explore the campus from anywhere in the world, the Virtual Campus project transcends geographical boundaries, making Ulster University’s environment accessible to all. This unique initiative not only provides exclusive access to specialised spaces but also allows individuals to explore new spaces, reducing feelings of anxiety and creating a more inclusive and comfortable experience for everyone involved. Pentagon Solutions provided invaluable support in the early stages of the project, advising on optimum workflows for cloud work-sharing, and ensuring the workflow between ACC, Desktop Connector, Autodesk Docs, and Autodesk Revit was fully considered.
Visit https://www.ulster.ac.uk/virtualcampus to explore Ulster University like never before!