Collaborative Learning Spaces
It's All About Flex-ability
As colleges and universities gain a better understanding of the need for learning spaces that morph to students' needs, engagement soars. Here's what 'flexible' looks like.
SCU students can casual and conventional study areas and work their way in the new Commons.
- Small devices welcome! Whatever direct-connect access can't accommodate, wireless can handle.
- Traditional furnishings are mixed with the more flexible throughout.
- Wireless access abounds and power-outlet access is ubiquitous as well.
- Laptops are most common, but the Learning Commons is multi-device-ready.
- Many furnishings are designed to to move anywhere, any time.
At Santa Clara University (CA), Vice Provost for information Services and CIO Ron Danielson led the design and construction of the campus's 194,251-square-foot Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orradre Library, a single building opened in March 2008. Danielson and his team were responsible for describing design goals, evaluating and revising proposals, prioritizing implementations, and overseeing installations for the large, multifunction learning commons that would become the intellectual hub of the university. In the process, especially with the vice provost in charge of creating the important building, the campus as a whole learned a new vernacular surrounding the design and use of learning spaces. Above all,they recognized an essential tenet of 21st century learning: New learning spaces need to be flexible and support the collaborative nature of both formal classes and informal student use.
Here, a glimpse inside flexible, collaborative learning at SCU. (See end of article for product details.)
Eight Santa Clara history students hold an informal but intensive nighttime study session in one of SCU's high-tech Educational Experimentation rooms with wired and wireless internet connectivity.
- Large-format Da-Lite wall display via motorized screen
- Panasonic ceiling projector
- Chief mounting hardware
- Large PolyVision whiteboard
- Extron Cable Cubby (recessed into table top) to hide connectors
- User-friendly AMX Table Top Touch Panel for connecting laptops and controlling room A/V
- Vaddio video camera (out of sight, recessed into wall)
- Crown boundary mic (out of sight, recessed into ceiling)
- Genelec speakers
A multimedia cabinet houses the A/V equipment racks,and the simple touchscreen interface controls the connection of student laptops to the room system and display, as well as the A/V functions-- including playback from various input sources and recording to CD, DVD, or remote storage. Students can choose to review lectures recorded earlier (via class capture or other materials they may bring) in several different formats. The room technology also offers the option to record audio and video of the entire room-- including the screen image-- with the choice of sending the recorded file to a remote storage device for later retrieval, or creating a disk on-site.
- JVC HDD/DVD/MiniDV video recorder
- Amino set-top box (behind panel)
- HaiVision encoder (behind panel)
- Extron switchers, amplifier, mixer
- JVC VCR
- AMX controller
- APC Smart UPS
The Educational Experimentation rooms are sometimes allocated to faculty on a competitive proposal basis for their experimentation with new education technologies. At other times, they are available to students to schedule their own group collaborations. The PolyVision RoomWizard touchscreen devices located just outside each of the collaborative rooms form a scheduling network that allows students to reserve a space, either in advance (via the web) or "at the door" (using the touchscreen).
An executive-in-the-making grabs his corner office and finds he's got power just where he needs it.
Students study anywhere they like because wireless is everywhere-- even in the stairwell!
Writing on the Learning Commons walls is not a punishable offense when the'walls' are actually whiteboards!
Students take statistics out to the terrace.
Students get comfortable in a hallway, with outlet connections for all, or...
Furnishings and technology components at SCU's Learning Commons have been designed so that students may select the elements they need and combine them to suit their purposes. Students often gather elements they need from distant corners of the building, to create the learning and collaboration spaces that suit them at any given moment; in fact,they are encouraged to do so.
...choose café seating.
According to CIO Ron Danielson,the way furnishings migrate around the building simply works. Not surprisingly, he says, the students have taken to the flexible spaces like "ducks to water."
Students wheel in a whiteboard and extra tables, carry in cushions from the terrace, add food, and settle in for exam cram.
Educational Experimentation Room
- Amino AmiNET 130 set-top box (behind panel)
- AMX controller
- APC Smart UPS
- Extron 60-259-22 SW6 VGA switcher
Extron 60-556-22 MMX 42 SVA matrix switcher
Extron 60-444-20 MDA 3SVA amplifier
Extron MVC 121 mixer
- HaiVision S240E MPEG-4 encoder (behind panel)
- JVC VCR
- JVC SR-DVM700US HDD/DVD/MiniDV video recorder