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Renovations Create 'Most Advanced Instructional Facility' at Nebraska-Lincoln

One of the oldest buildings on the campus of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) has been turned into what one administrator is calling "UNL's most advanced instructional facility."

An $8-million renovation has turned the 107-year-old Brace Laboratory, for decades the home of the university's physics department, into a facility equipped for the latest innovative teaching methods for undergraduate education.

The building now has:

  • Four life science laboratories;
  • A 186-seat auditorium;
  • Four classrooms designed for collaborative instruction;
  • A "technology transforming teaching" classroom to be used to help instructors evaluate teaching technologies; and
  • Office space for information technology employees.

The classrooms have been designed to seat 36 students in furniture arrangements allowing groups of six to work together, along with multiple white boards around the rooms.

  Life science labs in the renovated Brace Laboratory are designed to allow maximum student collaboration.
Life science labs in the renovated Brace Laboratory are designed to allow maximum student collaboration.

UNL administrators said the classroom design reflects the fact that collaborative learning concepts are replacing the traditional lecture hall approach to undergraduate education.

"We designed it to support modern research-based pedagogies," said UNL Associate Vice Chancellor Lance C. Perez, in a prepared statement. "Learning spaces have been built purposefully and intentionally to support active learning."

The renovated space, which opened with the beginning of the university's fall semester August 25, will primarily be used for biology and life sciences, mathematics and business administration classes. The collaborative classrooms will mostly be used for 100-level math courses.

"Mathematics has invested in professional development and updating how they teach many of their 100-level courses," Perez said. "The focus will be on small groups working together."

Three of the life science laboratories will be "wet" labs while the fourth "dry" lab will be designed specifically for virtual instruction.

The large auditorium will mainly be used by the College of Business Administration, which still has a number of large lecture courses.

Perez said that "what is significant about this space is that the entire building is dedicated to supporting undergraduate teaching and learning. This project has made Brace, in many ways, UNL's most advanced instructional facility."

Other renovations of the building, constructed in 1906, include the addition of restrooms (there were only two when the three-story building was built.); the replacement of radiators and window-unit air conditioners with modern heating and cooling systems; asbestos abatement; and the repair and replacement of floors, ceilings and walls.

About the Author

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.

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