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Olscamp Hall to have interactive classrooms

Olscamp Sketch

Having class in the shape of a triangle is just one of the features of the new interactive classrooms in Olscamp Hall.

Interactive prototype classrooms will be opening in Olscamp Hall fall semester.

The point of these classrooms is to help with retention, and the triangular shape is one of the ways to help.

Steven Krakoff, the associate vice president for Capital Planning and Campus Operations, said the classrooms will be in a large space on the second floor of Olscamp Hall.

The classrooms being built are considered prototypes and will be used to help plan for the remainder of the changes in the plans for the University.

“There will be three or four classrooms of varying sizes, small group study areas and collaborative spaces,” Krakoff said.

Susan Kleine, the associate vice provost for Undergraduate Education, said there was a large team of people who brainstormed and designed the rooms all the way down to the lighting that will be used.

“It’s a full A-to-Z design process to re-do parts of the classrooms in Olscamp [Hall] to become experimental or prototype classrooms,” Kleine said.

The Olscamp prototype is just the first step in the transformation to take the University from what it is today “to a cutting edge teaching and learning environment,” Krakoff said.

“If we find that certain things we test out in the Olscamp prototype don’t work as well as we thought they should, we can make the changes based on the prototype,” Krakoff said.

Each individual classroom will be set up differently, Kleine said.

One of the rooms is set up for approximetly 50 students, it will have connectable chairs on wheels with baskets called pod chairs, which are more comfortable.

“You can combine them, the chairs make a table for students to work in groups,” Kleine said. “It’s all about being able to move around the room.”

Another classroom that seats approximately 35 to 40 students will have tables and chairs and each table will have a monitor that electronic devices can be attached to by students.

“Students can put what is on their laptop up to the monitor for all to see,” Kleine said.

One of the Prototype classrooms will also have a lounge area that is connected where students could work on projects during class.

Faculty using the classrooms are going to be trained to use the classrooms to the best of their abilities, Kleine said.

The amount that will be spent on the project will be somewhere between 150 and 200 million dollars, Krakoff said.

The older buildings on campus are in need of renovations for multiple reasons and Krakoff said now is the time to act.

“We need to do it now,” Krakoff said. “We are also facing pressures to make spending decisions that will give the best possible learning outcomes for students. This all comes together in this time and suggests we need to make this level of investment now.”

Many of the academic buildings will be renovated in coming years including a new building for the College of Business, the Olscamp Prototype will influence the design of the other projects, Krakoff said.

Kleine said there have been many faculty members that have shown interest in teaching in the new classrooms, but only 45 instructors will have the opportunity to use the classrooms in the fall.

“People volunteered and expressed interest in using the rooms because they want to use experimental learning rather than lecturing,” Kleine said.

Among others, some of the classes that will be offered in the prototype classrooms include math, business, general writing studies, marketing, food and nutrition and journalism.

These new classrooms are designed to help build retention at the University.

“We want to have the best physical environment possible to aid in [students] academic progress particularly in their first and second years,” Krakoff said. “So by focusing a lot of our near term investments on learning spaces that will be available to students during their first and second years we will hope to improve retention overall.”

David Neeley, the vice president of Undergraduate Student Government said that after the executive board of USG was allowed to use a satellite lab in Hayes Hall, they gave feedback to ITS and the Provost about how they thought it would be a good way for students to interact with each other and do group work in the classroom.

Neeley said the new classrooms will expose students to a new type of learning that will be conducive for them.

“It’s something new and refreshing in a classroom for students–being able to work with peers and getting more hands on experience in the classroom instead of being lectured to all day,” he said.

Making the University a place students want to be and helping them to interact with students could help with retention at the University.

“If students can be cultivated and enjoy learning more in the interactive classroom I think it gives them a better reason to be at the University,” Neeley said.

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