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New e-classroom offers collaborative learning capabilities

A new e-classroom assembled in Killian 219 last fall comes equipped with a bevy of electronic hardware and software to enhance students’ learning opportunities through lecture, collaboration and hands-on learning.

The classroom came about through the efforts of William Frady, director of instructional technology and desktop services; Colby Deitz, manager of instructional computing; Elizabeth Synder, research specialist in the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness; Alison Joseph, business and technology applications analyst; Galen May, university architect; and Martha Diede, interim director and senior instructional developer at Coulter Faculty Commons.

Deitz, one of the creators of the classroom, answered a number of questions about its origin, capabilities and purpose.

David Scales conducts a Psychology 272 class in the Killian 219 e-classroom.

David Scales conducts a Psychology 272 class in the Killian 219 e-classroom.

Where did the idea to renovate the classroom come from?

Space use metrics indicated that Stillwell 144, Killian 219 and Killian 221 were declining in use. When Elizabeth Snyder, Alison Joseph and the team followed up with the instructors, we learned that the instructors found these classrooms exceptionally difficult to use because of crowding. The decision was made to make a computer classroom in a room designed for more traditional methods of instruction. The location of features such as pillars in the sightline between instructor and student, location of printers and other furniture made this a challenge in a room that had never been designed for computer-classroom use.

How was it funded, designed and constructed — or perhaps more concisely, how did it all come together?

The project came together through the magic of cooperation and teamwork. Galen May, university architect, collected a team with representation from Instructional Technology and Desktop Services, faculty teaching in computer classrooms, the Coulter Faculty Commons and OIPE, with input from member of the Space Management Committee.

The committee collected longitudinal data as well as anecdotes, conducted classroom observations, reviewed multiple iterations of plans and drawing, and continued to check in on the project throughout the building phase. Ultimately, these team members as well as the builders were present at the open house to enjoy the finished product.

The project was funded through a combination of the chancellor’s strategic classroom renovation fund and end-of-year one-time funding.

How many stations, projectors, and computers are there in the classroom?

The main space consists of 26 student computer stations, 26 student tablets, one instructor station, two projectors, four large monitor displays and five wireless collaboration units.

There’s also a breakout space featuring four student stations, four student laptop displays and two large monitor displays with wireless collaboration units.

How does Killian 219 differ from other computer labs and classrooms on campus?

This lab is different from the other labs and computer classrooms on campus as it is designed from the ground up with a focus on teaching and active learning, as opposed to being a space in which people teach and learn.

Some of the new features include tables that can move to computer stations on the wall for collaborative work, as well as spillover spaces and collaboration spaces for students and faculty to use before, during and after class. Moveable chairs make moving students into different collaboration configurations easy.

The wireless collaboration technology enables teachers and learners to work in small groups and to share individual stations at collaborative stations. The collaborative stations can also share around the room as needed.

What are the lab’s capabilities?

Independent video controls can mirror one source to all, or different sources to different displays.

Wireless collaboration units connect all the student computer stations.

A document camera can scan printed items into digital format.

A fully digital AV backbone with HDMI and VGA inputs connects to different kinds of display generators: televisions, DVD players, computers and even some mobile devices.

Reconfigurable tables, movable chairs and student power outlets around computer stations for their phones and laptops make everything flexible for the room’s users.

An ADA-compliant spillover space keeps everything accessible. There are collaboration breakout areas and a breakout room for between classes, individual teacher/student sessions and collaboration between students.

There’s even a student book bag cubby area for storing backpacks and personal belongings.

What collaborative and other specialized software lies at the heart of this e-classroom?

The space is built upon the foundation of collaboration. It utilizes a matrix-switching AV processor to allow every display to be individually used in a small collaboration group setting, while also allowing these groups to share information to the entire room. Faronics’ Insight software is also utilized to give the instructor special collaboration tools within the student computer environment.

How will the e-classroom best be used by instructors and students wanting to take advantage of its capabilities?

This is perhaps one of the most versatile classrooms on campus. It’s custom-designed and built for instructors who want to engage in active and/or collaborative learning, those who want to engage their students with computer-based learning and/or computer technology with the ability to give instruction at the same time they can let students practice.

It’s for those who want their students to have the opportunity to practice the knowledge, skills and abilities that they are learning outside of the classroom during a class period when the instructor is available to offer guidance and assistance.

It’s for instructors who want students to collaborate virtually when the students need to meet together during class time, but not all of them can. Students who need to collaborate with a team member who cannot be physically present can “beam” their work in.

All of these uses and more are made possible by the flexibility of this classroom. The best uses of this classroom focus on students as learners and as content creators for the material. If students have opportunities to play with the technology, they will be able to enhance their learning.

Instructors who allow students to participate in the creation of content for their classes, learning as they do so, will also draw students into buying into the course and into behaviors that may become life-long learning.

How is the room reserved for use?

Just like all of the other spaces on campus. Please schedule this room in R25.

For more information about the Killian 219 e-classroom, contact Deitz at 828-227-7487.

By Keith Brenton

Categories | The Reporter


Photos | WCU News Services

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