• Classrooms and Learning Spaces for the Future

    Session notes are here.

    I’m interested in talking about classroom and class design for the future:

    What should the physical space for learning include looking forward?  What are our minimum expectations?  Does the physical classroom matter any more?  [MOOCs, online and blended/hybrid classes raise complicated questions about what parts of classrooms and the things we do in them (like lecture) matter, which don’t matter, and which need to change as new virtual or physical spaces for teaching emerge.] For how long and in what ways will/should the classroom change?

    I should say that I’ve been mulling this notion of classroom space for a while (see my post here for one exploration of these ideas) as I’ve been involved in two different major building/renovation projects on my campus, but this could well be something that goes beyond classrooms to something like “learning spaces of the future” that would combine the physical and intellectual space that classrooms, libraries, archives, and museums occupy now and in the years to come.

    Anyone else interested in talking about learning spaces?

    Jeff McClurken


  1. Yes, I think this would be great!

    I’ve begun to ask for wireless classrooms–to facilitate online class exercises–but I’m also interested in clicker-friendly lecture halls, using computer labs in humanities courses, and so on.

    I’ve taught writing courses entirely in computer labs (works great) and had wireless classrooms backfire (when the wireless fails or is slow).

    Also, this is a chance to differentiate the value of in-person technical instruction vs. the MOOC model of distributed-digital instruction.

  2. Mills Kelly says:

    I’m also interested in this one. A lot. I am on our “learning environments” committee (we don’t call them classrooms any more) and we recently put out a call for proposals to the entire university faculty (over 2,000 people) for ideas for “classrooms of the future” and got exactly 3 responses, none of which were judged to be of sufficient quality or proper direction for the possibilities we had in mind–some currently vacant classrooms that could be renovated as “sandbox” space for new design concepts. I was very disappointed in the general lack of creative thinking.

    I’m also on a committee charged with the planning of a new six-story mixed use (classroom, office, residence) building in the center of campus and we have to do some pretty creative thinking about those classrooms right away. The RFP to the builders will go out in just a few months and their architects are going to want some specific guidance from us. Other than the “scale up” rooms at NC State and MIT, we’re struggling a bit for ideas. I have some that I will look forward to sharing with the group in NOLA.

  3. It seems as if two THATCampers describe universities prepared to invest in improving classroom facilities for the 21st century. I don’t want to sound as if I’m Bad Luck Schleprock, but I would like to make sure that the situation facing those of us working in increasingly underfunded programs at already underfunded public universities is also addressed.

    Our university offers reliable wireless in all of our traditional classrooms, but many of our students are ill-equipped in terms of laptops, tablets, etc. Group assignments work okay in most instances, but projects involving Zotero are my biggest problem. How are others in similar situations making do with software that may require a steeper learning curve or at least more time to become comfortable with the work? Recently inflated class sizes rule out visits to computer labs.

    I have experimented with Zotero group assignments hoping that at least one person per group has regular access to a new enough device. Troubleshooting Zotero installations on all sorts of aging laptops and netbooks eats up too much time, but this can work.

    Does any university library (or other resource) offer laptop checkouts for longer than 3 days? Our library offers great, PCs, but I have had a few students rack up $50.00 per day fines that they cannot pay, and I have intervened on their behalf. Last semester I exhausted the understanding of our librarians re: waiving the fines.

    When students follow the rules and return their computers on time, they then face the problem of repeating the same steps with their new computer. Our library is just starting to support Zotero, so I cannot expect students to get even basic questions answered on their own.

  4. Very interesting posting here Jeff! I’m also interesting in such matters. I have a few categories that you and your readers might find interesting:




    Daniel Christian

  5. Michael,
    Absolutely your comment raises a number of key pieces for us to remember in this conversation. As we look forward, we need to have a conversation about tough choices that we have to make in working with students (and institutions) with limited resources.

    [I just happen to be part of these two projects at my school, but there are plenty of other spaces that need renovation and maintenance. Plus, one of the issues with a renovation is that it may pay for equipment, but how is the maintenance of that infrastructure funded? Building plans rarely look a year in advance, at least in my experience. Who pays for the new lab or projector to be replaced?]

    It may mean that new technologies (which Daniel’s blog does a good job of gathering together) only appear in a few places until they can be piloted to see if they are worth the cost.

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