eCampus of the Month: Redesigning learning spaces for digital-age students


Learning space No. 2: Classrooms, with an emphasis on mid-sized enrollments (25 to 50 students)

Evidence: Educational research shows that students learn and retain more through active learning, yet traditional classroom designs discourage interaction (eye contact, small-group work); moving traditional furniture to accommodate active learning techniques can be time-consuming and disruptive; AV investments that emphasize presentation are perpetuating outdated pedagogies; mid-sized classrooms have the most potential for change.

Action: The university has developed and piloted a unique classroom design that uses desks that swivel 360 degrees to facilitate movement between lecture/discussion/group work and the ability of the instructor to move throughout the room. Pilots for other interactive designs are underway.

Key technologies: Multiple displays to accommodate more complex sight lines in the redesigned rooms; document cameras and collaboration software are being used to facilitate sharing in the classroom; focus on designs that are most effective to replicate.

Has your campus noticed an increase in student performance and/or motivation? If so, how?

Computer labs: Use of the renovated lab that focuses on collaboration space has nearly doubled, despite a reduction in the number of computers in the lab to one-third of the previous number, and the lab is being used as a model for redesigning the remaining labs.

Interactive classroom designs: Instructors are reporting that new designs allow them to rethink seminar experiences in a mid-sized room; students are reporting higher levels of engagement and sense of community.

Although we do not have empirical data to support our beliefs, providing technology in all its forms to a student body that clearly is technology-focused is, in our opinion, a strong motivator—just as not providing technology to students that have grown up with technology is a form of not meeting expectations and a de-motivator. Working to change the physical learning environment of the student to best support their learning and work styles is key to adapting technology to the end user.

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