Touch-screen lecture hall speeds up feedback

As a third-year university student, James White knows how difficult it can be to participate in a lecture with more than 100 other people in the room. But that’s about to change as White is among the first students to begin using the University of Queensland’s new hi-tech lecture theater, believed to be the largest of its kind in the country, reports Australian IT. The university’s $2.5 million Advanced Concept Teaching Space combines research, interactive technology, and innovative teaching. The facility, set on three levels, accommodates 100 students. It uses high-resolution touch screens for instant feedback, and it links to students’ portable devices such as iPods, mobile phones, and laptops, enabling students to share work and actively participate in lectures. Completed in July 2008, the theater now serves a range of classes, including political science, journalism, and religion. Lecturers no longer will have to log in to the room’s computer control systems and input their preferences, as wireless identification tags allow the system to recognize them as they step to the podium and automatically set up the room for their needs. Teachers can use projection screens, interactive whiteboards, tablets, and front-of-stage preview monitors, as well as innovative lighting systems to get students’ attention. From the podium, a single touch launches an instant poll on students’ screens or starts translation software that offers a PowerPoint file in six languages. Technology support manager Derek Powell said ACTS was built to experiment with different teaching methods. "Students are now coming with their own equipment, be that laptops, mobile phones, or iPods," Powell said. "Technology is part of their lives, and therefore should be a part of their learning."

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