New Active Learning Classroom in Charter Hall 104

Published Thursday, February 22, 2018
From left: Shawn Hedman, Kate Borowske, Dan Baun
From left: Shawn Hedman, Kate Borowske, Dan Baun

An Active Learning Classroom has been created in Charter Hall 104 and will be the site of an open house on Feb. 28 from 2:30-4:30 p.m.

“It’s a trend in higher education today, and we think it will be a room that will be popular with our students and faculty,” said Kate Borowske, Instructional Design Librarian at SMSU.

The room consists of five separate stations, with moveable desks that form a horseshoe around a screen display. Each station has six chairs. One larger screen is on the wall, as well as a teaching hub, where the instructor can change display access in any number of ways depending on the topic and needs of the students in that particular class.

For instance, the instructor can give the same presentation on each of the individual stations and the larger screen, or give students the ability to work independently at their five separate stations. The work of any one student group can also be displayed at the other stations, too.

Versatility is the hallmark of the new room, said Dan Baun, Chief Information Officer and one of the members of the Academic Technology Infrastructure Work Group, consisting of 15 members who “have a stake in course delivery,” said Baun. “Our workgroup was charged by the Academic Technology Committee and the University Technology Advisory Committee,” he explained.

Students have the capability of using a laptop to interact on the screen with others in their small group. Each station can be its own study/project area. And with moveable desks, the room configuration can change quickly, too.

“The technology is great for classes, small group work, meetings. It’s a proactive environment,” said Shawn Hedman, Director of Academic/Administrative Computer Services. “This is sort of a prototype right now.”

Borowske has been working to train faculty on the numerous technological capabilities of the room. “Part of my job is helping faculty use technology in their teaching,” she said.

“These are more flexible than smart classrooms,” said Hedman. “They can do more things, and involve the students in many ways.”

Borowske said the advantages are many for the students. “There’s more of an emphasis on student collaboration and group work — more student engagement,” she said.

The space was formerly an open computer lab. The cost to convert the room was about $60,000, which was paid for by a system-wide leveraged equipment grant and matching funds from the SMSU Foundation, as well as Information Technology dollars.

The work group visited similar classrooms in Mankato and Winona during the process, said Baun.

All three believe that the advantages will become clearer as the room is put to use by classes and student groups, and they hope to replicate the technology on different scales across campus in the future.