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Technology providers and furniture manufacturers on turning lecture halls into active learning classrooms

University Business, October 2016
The tiered education department classroom at McGill University in Montreal can accommodate up to 96 students.
The tiered education department classroom at McGill University in Montreal can accommodate up to 96 students.

What would you say to someone who needs convincing that lecture halls and other large spaces can also be active learning environments?

“Large, active learning classrooms support the largest number of students efficiently. The classroom can also be used outside classroom hours for collaborative activities. You’re really increasing the use and efficiency of the real estate.” —Andrew Kim, manager, WorkSpace Futures, Steelcase

“We are seeing movement away from cramming as many seats as possible into a space to increasing value created through learning space models that are more effective in improving student outcomes and completion rates. The challenge for campus leaders is how do you align the value placed on learning outcomes and completion rates with the economic value placed on investment in real estate.” —Susan Whitmer, education research lead, Herman Miller

“The key principles of active learning are less about furniture, facilities and professor-to-student ratios and more about the key philosophy of facilitating student discovery. The student reaction to recording some portion of lectures in advance in exchange for ‘flipping’ the space for group discussions, labs, activities and presentations are generally a welcome learning style addition with proven results.” —Sean Brown, Senior Vice President, Sonic Foundry

“Unlike previous generations who were forced to learn in a lecture hall setting with instructors facing a seated classroom, active learning spaces allow students and instructors to engage, share and interact with one another. A large, active learning space creates a viral learning experience.” —Michelle Wille, Marshall Furniture Inc.

“As wired and wireless collaboration systems have become available, the cost to outfit large classrooms with technology to allow students to easily share content and work collaboratively has been reduced, while simultaneously allowing instructors the ability to monitor and engage students as either a small group or large gathering.” —Joe da Silva, director of product marketing, Extron Electronics

“Today’s students use their devices daily to collaborate with other students. Building the technology into these larger spaces is relatively low-cost and will allow them to transfer this social behavior into a learning behavior so they are more engaged. Active learning is not about space, it is about engagement.” —Michael Peveler, vice president, global sales, wePresent

“Learning technologies, and changing pedagogical methods, are not only changing the way we teach but also the physical environment we teach in. The classroom of the future recasts educational settings in exciting new formats: global connectivity and collaboration, combined with technology that allows for interactive and student-tailored lessons.” —Elaine Shuck, global director, education solutions and market development, Polycom

“New displays and projectors can adapt to any classroom setting. For example, interactive projectors and whiteboards are a focal point because they allow the teacher to direct discussion by controlling the on-screen content, while projectors with wireless connectivity promote collaboration by allowing students to view content on their personal devices.” —Bob Guentner, senior product manager of projectors, NEC Display

“I would listen carefully to their concerns. Is it more about the technology, changing the teaching style or the scale of the new environment? Or all of the above? Who else has changed a lecture hall into an active classroom and can you go visit that university?” —Tom Mykietyn, higher education manager, HARMAN

“Lecture halls are being redesigned with wider tiers and integrated technologies to accommodate the needs of students with the tools needed for the workforce. Many rooms are designed with the ability to subdivide into smaller spaces. Interactive video and web conferencing allow remote students and in-class students to connect.” —Mary Schlegelmilch, manager of U.S. Public Sector Education, Cisco

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