Students take note: The classroom of the future might make it difficult to pass notes or sit where teachers might not call on you to answer questions. Yet you might consider the departure from the traditional setting a change for the better.
That's what officials at
Called the Learning Studio, the classroom all but does away with the front-to-back setting and instead equips it with technology usually reserved for computer labs and auditoriums.
Among the room's features: modular seating for 25 students; seven fixed whiteboards, including two that are interactive; four projectors; a document camera; a cart with 25 laptop computers; an instructor station with dual monitors; and a touch screen panel.
"Our goal with the project was to radically rethink a classroom from the point of view of how the learning space and learning technology could be flexible to faculty and to students to accommodate a wide range of classes and teaching styles," said Steve Horvath, HCC associate vice president of academic affairs.
"Once classes started in the room, what we learned very quickly is that faculty and students really appreciate having as many writing surfaces as possible. The question we used to ask ourselves when outfitting a new classroom was: 'Where should we put the whiteboard?' Now we've come to appreciate that a better question is 'How many whiteboards should we have?'"
Mary Beth Furst, HCC assistant professor and coordinator for the school's business and computer systems division, agreed. She is teaching a hybrid business ethics course in the Learning Studio and says that she and students relish the ability to move around during class.
Furst noted that the Learning Studio has "no 'back' of the room for students to gravitate toward." But to hear her talk, it appears that students don't miss it.
"The energy is palpable," Furst said. "I could see a difference in engagement from the first day to the last day of the semester.
"In a traditional classroom, I am often referring to where a note or drawing was before I had to erase it to make more space for the next point," Furst said. "The ability to write on so many spaces [fixed and movable whiteboards of many sizes] allows for the conversation to continue throughout the entire class time."
Horvath said HCC agreed to partner with Herman Miller as part of the company's Learning Studio Research Program. The Herman Miller website says its Learning Studio design was inspired by an artisan's studio.
HCC faculty and staff worked with the company to create a classroom that would improve student engagement, Horvath said.
"All aspects of the room were discussed, including color, lighting, board placement, multimedia displays and wireless technology," he said.
Initially, some students found the Learning Studio a bit challenging, Horvath said, adding that some in the focus groups called it overstimulating and disorienting.
"I can appreciate that perspective. Starting college can be somewhat overwhelming in and of itself," Horvath said. "If a student goes into all of her classes planning to sit in the front, and one classroom really does not have a front, per se, it's disorienting."
Furst said she hopes the school equips more classrooms with movable whiteboards, multiple displays and laptops.
"My experience in the Learning Studio has also changed my teaching in traditional classrooms," Furst said. "I am more flexible and look for ways to improvise and create a more open space."