Food for Thought Friday: No More Lecture Halls?

by Kristie Burk

Do you remember the college lecture hall? When I attended Providence College as an undergraduate, I distinctly remember sitting in a large hall with a few hundred of my closest friends, listening to our professors talking.

Times are changing! I was reminded of this when listening to Julie Evans from Project Tomorrow speak at the recent iNACOL Blended and Online Learning Symposium.

She showed us some pictures of a new building at the University of Kansas. [Get a 360 degree view of a classroom here.] The design and construction of the classrooms show us just how much our concept of learning and the skills needed to succeed in today’s marketplace have changed at all levels.

Instead of the traditional seats in a semi-circle around a lectern, the new classrooms at KU have tables where students can work in groups.  The tables are wired so that students can project with their devices to monitors either on the wall or on the table.  Most of the walls have whiteboards for collaboration. The focus has definitely shifted to the students.

“Even the common spaces in the new [KU] building provide opportunities for learning. For instance, the atrium provides a marvelous gathering space for individual study, but also for conversations that often lead to informal learning.” – Doug Ward, Associate Director of the University of Kansas Center for Teaching Excellence 

And the best part of the whole story? This is a new building…for the School of Engineering! The design choices are in response to the new skills that students are expected to develop. The school’s website says that the new classrooms are “critical for students to hone their teamwork and communication skills while building their technical expertise.”

Have you rearranged your classroom because of your emphasis on student-centered learning or does your room layout need an overhaul? Food for thought!

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