The University of Manchester is the largest single-site university in the UK and part of the prestigious Russell Group.
Recently, the decision was taken to invest in new desks for lecturers, but a number of specific requirements made this a difficult task, as Jamie Wright, media services assistant manager, at the university, explains: “We struggled to find something that would have all the abilities that we wanted: electrically height adjustable, the right size, which for us is shallower than a normal depth of desk, the ability to incorporate a 19in rack and customisable. We really struggled to find anywhere else on the market that could provide that.”
Thankfully, a meeting with Loxit proved to be the start of a long-term relationship between the manufacturer and the university.
John Whittle, director at Loxit, explains: “The university had been looking for someone to create a bespoke solution, which satisfied some quite specific requirements. From our perspective we were delighted because we do a lot of standard products, but we do also design a lot of bespoke solutions. We understand that every room is going to need slightly different equipment and we’re very happy to come along and create a bespoke solution.
“One of the interesting things we found was that the type of mechanics we’ve got actually suited the university’s requirements but being a shallow desk, which was actually based on the depth of a plinth, and also having to have the integrated AV meant that it had to have a certain type of electrically height adjustable leg set.”
Following the design review after the first rollout, the requirement to have a split vanity panel at the back was introduced. This means that IT can go into a room mid-lecture if a piece of equipment goes down, remove the portion of the vanity panel and access the back of the rack to do the servicing while the lecture continues to be delivered.
Wright adds: “Generally when it comes to AV support there’s only one technician who’ll fix the issue, so instead of having to take off an entire vanity panel they can take off the section they need, which is just behind the rack, and get to all the equipment they need. That’s been really useful for us as opposed to having to get a couple of people in to take off whole vanity panels at once.”
In addition to this, two-thirds height doors allow lecturers to access some of the components but ensure they’re not able to reach everything.
The bespoke Loxit desks have now been installed across the campus. “It’s become part of our teaching standard,” says Wright. “We have the same kit and the same layout in 85 of our centrally timetabled rooms which makes it really useful for the lecturers because no matter where they are on campus it’s the same equipment and the same layout. When they come to use the equipment not only the AV equipment but also the features of the desk like the raise and lower, they know where everything located. It’s been really useful for us to be able to standardise on this product.
The height adjustment has been a particularly popular feature, having a number of unexpected benefits in addition to providing easy access and comfort for wheelchair users or those who have difficulty standing for long periods.
Wright explains: “We’ve also found it’s been very useful for some of our other users such as our maths lecturers who actually want the desk to be raised up quite high so they can use the visualizers. Before we got the desks, lecturers were having to spend a good hour, sometimes even two, leant over writing formulae on the visualisers and we were getting a lot of complaints about people with bad backs. Having these desks has made it really easy for lecturers to be able to utilise things like the visualizer without causing any serious damage to their back, so it’s actually had unexpected uses which we hadn’t planned for but it’s been delivered really well.”
Wright concludes: “We started out with one particular product and through several iterations we’ve come up with a really good product which we feel we can roll out across our entire campus.”