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Articles: Classroom

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center for Faculty Excellence has experimented with alternative classroom designs that make it easier for instructors to use interactive learning methods—including in lecture hall-sized spaces.

Students enrolled in media ethics at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill this fall walked into a lecture hall that looked radically different than two years ago. Gone is the stadium-style seating. Now the room, used for a wide range of courses, has 100 rolling swivel chairs with adjustable tables and nine mounted video screens.

High-capacity classrooms: The collaborative BioSciences West classroom at The University of Arizona holds up to 112 students.

Active learning should allow students in traditional lecture halls to work in small groups solving problem sets or developing presentations. That can be accomplished without renovating the space, but the layout does present challenges.

Lecture courses can be made more interactive by breaking up class time with small-group activities.

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

Today, the mastery of writing is critical for success in school, college, and in the vocational, business, and professional workplace. Teachers in K-12 schools across the nation hear their students express fear and loathing of writing – overwhelmed by the writing process and not knowing where to get started.  

Research has shown that active learning—asking students to engage in class with each other and their instructor—is more effective than traditional lecturing.

The nine schools recognized as Summer 2016 Models of Excellence have found that innovation leads to innovation when it comes to student success. Administrators who find new opportunities to provide support encourage students to be creative in making the most of a higher education.

Susan West Engelkemeyer is the president of Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts.

With increasing urgency, today’s colleges are being asked—by business, government and the nonprofit field—to impart so-called “21st century skills” of communication, collaboration, problem-solving and creativity to their students. What’s often missing from the list is leadership.

The first new academic building added to Trinity’s historic Washington, D.C. campus in more than half a century, provides much needed instructional space for the school’s growing nursing and health programs as well as a step into modern architecture.

The success of the studio concept does not just resonate for a graduate student audience, but can and should be articulated for undergraduates as well. If MBAs must work collaboratively, digitally and dynamically, so should undergraduate students.

At Juniata College in Pennsylvania, students took Arabic for the first time last fall by enrolling in a course at Gettysburg College via video conference.

Amherst College students, meanwhile, can major in architectural studies by taking classes at four neighboring colleges. And at Cabrini College near Philadelphia, students from five institutions researched viruses last summer in a new undergraduate science program.

A more centralized approach to course scheduling at Somerset Community College has increased the rates of filled classroom seats and helped students fit in the courses they need to graduate on time. Between 2008 and 2014, the average seat-fill rate has increased by 24 percent and the average student credit load has increased by 48 percent.

Students don’t quite run the show when it comes to course scheduling. But colleges and universities are striving to make it easier for them—with their ongoing juggle of work, family and school commitments.

Brent Betit helped found Landmark College, the world's first college for students with learning disabilities.

The spaces we create for people with learning disabilities can support success or guarantee failure.

Three decades ago, I led a team in designing an entire college campus specifically for students with learning disabilities.

Nearly a decade in the making, the new science building at Clayton State University in Georgia adds a much-needed 58,610 square feet of learning facilities to campus.

The building nearly triples the school’s lab space, creating more efficient facilities to accommodate increasing enrollment.


Clayton State’s enrollment has grown to more than 7,200 students from 4,675 in 2001. There are more student science majors, and every student is required to take laboratory classes.

While renovating the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, workers found a “chemical hearth” hidden behind the walls.

It turned out to have been part of an early science classroom commissioned by university founder Thomas Jefferson. The room, likely sealed in the mid-1800s, survived a fire in 1895 that destroyed much of the building’s interior.

At 500,000 square feet, the new Science and Engineering Hall at The George Washington University is the largest academic building dedicated to these fields in the nation’s capital.

And it serves thousands of students and roughly 140 faculty members in the heart of the Foggy Bottom campus. The building, known on campus as the SEH, provides eight floors of laboratory space to support both academics and research.