Over the past year Professor Neil Morris in conjunction with the team in charge of the central teaching spaces has set out to redesign a small number of teaching spaces based around a more collaborative, Blended Learning/Flipped Classroom model of teaching. The initial three rooms chosen for this are Dental LT in the Worsley Building, Mechanical LT B and Roger Stevens LT 8. The hour-long meeting was an open meeting for potential users to hear from both Professor Morris and the Architects (Burwell Deakins) about the planes and their current progress as well as provide feedback.
The first part of the presentation covered how these rooms will be laid out. Rather than the rows of tiered seating that we currently see in lecture theatres, the seating will be broken up into blocks of seating (4-5 seats) with desk, creating a self-contained learning pod. Although this layout will reduce the seating capacity of each room by approximately 4-5%. Students will be able to work in groups and the tutor will have easy access to those students to help facilitate work. This will help foster a more collaborative learning environment. Another benefit will be to extend the uses of the room beyond what the current layout allows including.
• Didactic or Collaborative
• Individual or Group
• Formal or Informal
The technology to be installed in these rooms has been designed to make the most of this new layout. The tutor will be able to control (from the lectern) where the content is projected. Casting content directly to the main screen, both to and from the devices being used in the individual learning pods (each has an interactive touchpad integrated into the desk) onto the main room screen. Mic’s (for voice recording) and lighting at each pod will also be individually controlled to better help students to focus and work in their groups.
In addition to the big screen and lecture capture, the computer station at the front will also have a visualizer and a digital drawing tablet/pen linked to a digital whiteboard. This will allow the tutor to write and draw freehand onto the digital whiteboard in a similar fashion to current analogue pen and whiteboard solutions. The added value of a digital whiteboard is the flexibility provided by scrolling and zooming features beyond the real-estate that a physical board affords. Digital pens/brushes also provide more choice of colour, size, shape etc. than a physical pen does and the content of these digital whiteboards could also be captured/recorded for review and revision. All of this in-room technology will also allow for a more innovative use of mobile applications such as Padlet, Nearpod, Google Docs and Socrative.
There were some concerns raised over the decision not to have a traditional analogue whiteboard in the rooms opting instead for a digital tablet, pen and whiteboard. The feeling was that this would be too much of a departure from the style of delivery that academics are used too. This, they felt would have detrimental effect on the overall in-session performance of the academic, reducing the students learning experience. Where this is a valid concern which can’t be ignored, it isn’t insurmountable and could be mitigated with appropriate training and support.
Currently the planned timescale for this changer will be to have the work completed for the beginning of the 2016/17 academic year.
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