Queen's University — Since 1873
9th January 2014

Ellis classrooms get revamped

Rooms 319, 321 and 333 see innovative technology added to create interactive learning experience

The new classrooms will feature touch-screen monitors.
The new classrooms will feature touch-screen monitors. (Supplied)

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Three active learning classrooms were launched on Monday, marking the transformation of Ellis Hall’s unused spaces into an interactive learning centre.

Classrooms 319, 321 and 333 in Ellis have been completely renovated, a process started in 2011 by the University’s Teaching and Learning Space Committee.

Approximately $2 million was spent on the renovation, with half a million alone for new technology that was added. The funds for the project were donated.

The classrooms, or “active learning spaces” were created in order to provide students with a deeper level of learning and understanding through group interaction, said Jill Scott, vice-provost (teaching and learning).

“The research on learning is that if we actively engage with the material, with other people, we learn at a deeper level,” Scott, one of the leaders of the project, said. Room 333 features interactive screens that line the walls intended for group presentations. Individual groups, while presenting, have the opportunity to manipulate the screen with their hands.

“The idea is that these teams work together to build material together … or prepare a presentation all around the material that they’ve been working with,” Scott said.

319 features colour coded chairs that are mobile, and is designed for 48 people.

Classroom 321 includes monitors that sit on each table that can be connected to a computer and is meant for 72 people.

“[Classroom 321], it’s BYOD, bring your own device. Basically one person’s computer is going to be the platform, and everybody will be able to see what’s on that screen,” said Scott. The next two years will be a trial run for the rooms in order to see the results of this kind of learning environment. Professors and students will be regularly consulted with to discuss how effective the rooms are.

“We’re going to be looking at the experiences of instructors and how it changes how they think about their teaching,” Scott said.

Scott said that the classrooms are currently being used by a variety of Arts and Science courses, as well as Applied Sciences.

If the response is positive, plans for further classroom renovations could be considered.

“There are a lot of spaces on campus that could use a little refurbishing. So if we’re going to refurbish rooms, we want to incorporate what we have learned,” she said.

Professor Jonathan Rose started using room 319 for his POLS 310 seminar this week.

He said the design of the room made a three-hour class much more bearable, as the students were able to move around in groups.

“I’ve taught this class for a number of years, and normally halfway through the class everyone’s energy level falls, the students and mine,” Rose said.

“We had plenary sessions. We had students reporting back. We had students creating. All of that is not really possible in conventional classrooms.”

Rose said that the rooms focus on peer-directed learning, rather than on the instructor alone, which is the case in older rooms.

“The traditional rooms are tiered, and it created a hierarchy where the instructor is at the front of the room,” he said. “[This] reinforces the concept of the teaching being the centre of knowledge transmission rather than peer directed learning.”

Computer Science student Ben Dennerley said that the technology in room 321 enhanced his learning.

“Seeing our professor take advantage of the new technology in the room already is very promising,” Dennerley, CompSci ’16, said.

“[The technology] is actually pretty amazing, allowing us to use an ‘active-learning’ model of education.”

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