Students in the Net generation enter higher education with an expectation that cutting-edge technology will be a force in their academic experience, but its use comes with strict requirements at George Washington University, which in 2007 made a commitment to creating a more collaborative learning environment.
“Technology needs to advance learning and engage students,” says P.B. Garrett, associate provost and chief academic technology officer for the university. “George Washington University is supportive of transformative pedagogical and curricular innovations that advance teaching and learning, which include new technology-enhanced active learning environments.”
Meeting this challenge became ever more pressing when the school started to see tremendous growth, and plans emerged for an addition to its School of Public Health and Health Science Building and the construction of a new 700,000-square-foot research and teaching facility.
The university designed four new spaces that would also be used as models for future interactive learning environments. The largest is an 81-seat space that allows students to work in small groups, and features whiteboard walls, LCD screens, projection screens, PTZ cameras and ceiling mounted cameras. An AMX touch panel gives faculty members the ability to manage a wide range of audiovisual equipment. Two smaller spaces—one of which was dedicated to library use—rely on a variation of this design.
“We tried all different technologies, from super high-tech components to more conventional tools, as a way of assessing their effectiveness from a teaching and support standpoint,” explains John Arpino, assistant director of engineering research and development at George Washington University. “These projects are models for our future collaborative learning space designs.”
The fourth space is a facility that uses AMX technology to help simulate a real-world emergency medical environment for nursing students. The facility, which includes 10 patient beds, two examining rooms and one studio apartment, has two audiovisual control rooms that rely on AMX’s latest technology, including MXT touch panels, TPI-Pro presentation interfaces and Enova DGX digital media switchers. Cameras and microphones situated at each station record students’ bedside interactions, which can be reviewed synchronously or asynchronously.
These innovations earned George Washington University the AMX Collaboration Initiatives Award.
“The technology improvements we made signify an important shift in the teaching style of the university—one that’s active and engaging,” says Arpino. “Being recognized with the award signifies that we’re going in the right direction.”
Students would seem to agree. “I heard one freshman who entered the Ames Hall library for the first time say, ‘If I knew that the Mount Vernon campus had technology like this, I would have applied to live here.'” Arpino adds.
“The initial installation has been a learning process for all of us —administration, faculty, and staff,” says Arpino, “but the buy-in has been across the board. It’s exciting to be at a university that sees technology as a means to transform education.”
The recently redesigned learning spaces are now serving as prototypes for a new large-scale research and teaching facility for science and engineering, which is slated to open for the spring semester of 2014.
The $25,000 in AMX technology and equipment that comes with the award will contribute to the school’s development.