Funding, Grants & Awards

Montana State U Wins Award for Smart Classrooms

Montana State University (MSU) has won an award for innovation in teaching technology in recognition of its technology-enhanced active learning (TEAL) classrooms.

MSU launched two TEAL classrooms last year, the first in the spring and the second in the fall, in an effort to increase student retention and graduation rates. In the classrooms, students work in groups of nine, with a teacher circulating among them. "Designed to bolster collaboration among students," according to a school news release, "the tables are linked to wall-mounted screens or monitors around the classroom, allowing students and professors to share mathematical proofs, chemical formulas or physics equations with their entire work group or class."

In the first year, 850 students had taken courses in the TEAL classrooms ranging from introductory algebra, chemistry and engineering to education, horticulture and English literature. Among the 27 courses that have been taught in the classes, Statistics 1 and introductory algebra saw some of the most impressive gains.

"Over the six previous semesters an average of 56 percent of students received A, B or C grades in Statistics 1, but during spring of 2013, that number rose to 86 percent in the TEAL-taught Statistics 1 classes," according to information released by MSU. "Students taking introductory algebra also showed a jump in success, with an improvement in A, B or C grades to 81 percent from 56 percent the previous six semesters."

 "We have seen that the innovative design and use of MSU's TEAL classrooms has increased student participation and engagement with course content and boosted student success," said Marilyn Lockhart, director of the MSU Center for Faculty Excellence, in a prepared statement. "Research shows that creating classrooms designed for active learning is critical to improving student outcomes and helps them develop skills that prospective employers value."

Given by the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium (NWACC), the award will be presented to Lindsay Jackson, project manager in MSU's Information Technology Center, and Marta Yellin, TEAL teacher and instructor in the Jake Jabs College of Business and Entrepreneurship, at NWACC's Instructional Technology Roundtable.

"The award recognizes our institutional investment in the TEAL classrooms and the explicit demonstration of their impact on student performance," Said Jerry Sheehan, CIO at MSU, in a prepared statement. "It's also important to remember the multi-party partnership that makes TEAL successful — instructors willing to teach differently, students engaging in the classroom differently, technology investments by MSU to give them leading-edge tools, and objective evaluation of performance by the Center for Faculty Excellence."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at

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