Page 34 - Campus Technology, May/June 2019
P. 34

FEATURE Learning Spaces
“Most of our faculty members still need to lecture, but many of them want to complement the lectures with
group activities and discussion.”
chairs. We can only take out so many chairs before our registrar starts to object.”
The university also has to be sensitive to the diverse teaching preferences of its faculty. “One of the reasons we are calling this the Flexible Learning Space Initiative is because these class- rooms accommodate a wider range of instruc- tional methods,” Henshaw said. “For example, most of our faculty members still need to lec- ture, but many of them want to complement the lectures with group activities and discus- sion.” Henshaw said that new workshops, vid- eos and open houses offered through the Cen- ter for Faculty Excellence help instructors get oriented to the flexible spaces. “Helping ensure that our faculty members have positive initial experiences in these classrooms is critical to the success of the initiative.”
Taking a Detailed Inventory
The learning innovations team at Georgia State University has found that when scaling active learning classroom concepts up to the university level from pilots, compromises must be made because of competing demands. The registrar has requirements; the facilities team controls furni- ture, walls, lighting and HVAC; and instructional technology influences AV systems and peripher- als. They all have to work together to find the most creative way to make changes effectively and meet university standards and policies.
“A big component of getting the registrar equation right is having a robust and detailed inventory of your space,” noted Lee Webster, assistant director for learning environments. “As I talk to colleagues at other universities, it is
surprising to me how much we don’t know about our spaces. We are often flying the plane while we are building it. Do we know many classrooms we have with only 11 square feet per student? We had spaces that were low- hanging fruit for changes where we didn’t have to decrease seat count, and by making some smart furniture decisions, we could actually increase the seat count. Understanding the environment and inventory is key to making strategic moves on campus.”
Being ready to act quickly when funding becomes available is also important, said Julian Allen, senior director of learning innovations. It is not unusual for the chief financial officer or a dean to release end-of-year funds. “What is nice about having an inventory is that you have a ready-made needs list — so that when a dean says we have a million dollars in unspent funds, we can propose this kind of change and it gets approved in minutes.”
Allen and Webster’s approach has been to develop a few key examples and then dissemi- nate their findings about those spaces across a broad set of campus stakeholders who all play a part in the running and creation of classrooms. “We show what works on a small scale and what can be expanded out across the institution,” Webster said. “You can’t build an active learning classroom in every one of your spaces. You can get people on board with little things — like how we can get whiteboards in all our spaces.”
David Raths is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.

   32   33   34   35   36