CULC designs revealed at open house

While the construction on the Clough Undergraduate Learning Center (CULC) pounds away at the center of campus another, quieter branch of construction has been underway in the Engineering Science and Mechanics building. Room G-17 has been converted into a miniature prototype classroom of two of the new rooms in the CULC.

The room, which is being used by 11 different classes ranging from English Composition to Industrial Engineering, was debuted over winter break and uses two educational tools to help redesign not only the architecture of the space, but also the way that the classes held within are taught.

The layout of the rooms is based on the SCALE-UP (Student-Centered Activities for Large Enrollment Undergraduate Programs) model. The SCALE-UP model is a modular model with movable desks and chairs that lacks the “teaching wall.”

“When you walk into a classroom it’s immediately obvious where the instructor is going to be. There is one projector screen, one podium and all the seats face that wall. By using two projection screens and whiteboards on the other walls, the new rooms don’t have that,” said Donna Llewellyn, director of the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning (CETL).

The prototype room has windows lining the top of one wall and seemingly dozens of ceiling lights. The nine tables are modular and are arranged in three large circles for the demonstration of the room to the faculty, with a movable podium near the far wall. The two projector screens are on opposite sides of the room, and the two remaining walls have multiple rows of sliding whiteboards and gleaming LCD monitors.

Those LCD monitors link the SCALE-UP classroom layout with the other innovative technological addition to the prototype room, the ClassSpot PBL (Project-based learning) software created and provided by Tidebreak, Inc. The software allows students to link their laptops in to their Team Spots, connecting all of the members of each team to a communal screen. “Students can scroll to the top of their laptops to enter the Team spot screen, where they can all access the browser or work on a document or presentation, or you can use the archive function to send things from the communal Team screen back down to the individual laptops” said Andrew Milne, CEO of Tidebreak, Inc.

The Team spots can then connect to the Class spots to share information or programs with the whole class, again by simply moving the cursor to the top of the team spot screen (one of the three LCD screens on the walls) and toggeling up to the main projectors in the classroom. “Faculty have the option of locking the Class spot so that students can’t send anything up to the Class spot screen during a lecture or when students are testing, but ideally most of the class will be spent learning in a shared environment” Milne said.

Students using the ClassSpot PBL software will be able to share video, search results and presentations with their teams, which will also have their own modular space and whiteboards from the SCALE-UP layout. The classroom itself is also modular, with detachable floor panels so that designers can find the best possible place for outlets for faculty and student laptops. “I went in there yesterday and they had already moved the furniture, so we know that works and they aren’t afraid to use it…. We will be surveying the faculty who are teaching in there and the students who are having classes in there to see what they do and don’t like, what works and what doesn’t work.” Llewellyn said.