Designing Learning Spaces That Promote Engagement
Homero Lopez, President, Estrella Mountain Community College
Estrella Mountain Community College was recently charged with creating new classrooms for its students and faculty. They viewed this challenge as an opportunity to fashion classrooms of choice focused on learning. To achieve this objective they involved faculty, students, and staff in the design process. The teams formed to study campus space were given a series of questions to address. The following is a sample of the faculty related questions:
- What challenges is your discipline being faced with?
- What teaching and learning methods are being utilized in your discipline?
- What teaching methods are being projected for the near future?
The study teams found that creating flexible learning studios that could easily accommodated various teaching and learning styles would be the optimal solution. To assure that they stayed focused throughout the decision making process they developed a vision statement: “Access to technology + interaction + comfort = greater engagement”.
- Studios were designed with flexible furnishing that could easily be reconfigured to meet the needs of different teaching and learning modalities.
- Furniture was selected based on the following criteria:
Laptops were utilized throughout the rooms in an effort to increase student writing space and to reduce student-to-student and student-to-instructor line of sight barriers.
Rooms designed with ergonomically sound lighting, large storage areas, and pleasing wall and floor colors.
Investment in technology was minimized by developing 3 levels of placement:
- large amount of desk space reserved for books and writing
- computers could be hidden within the furniture when they were not being utilized
- tables could easily be moved into different configurations
- All chairs had wheels
- Level 1 – 1 computer per 4 unit cluster
- Level 2 – 2 computer per 4 unit cluster,
- Level 3 – 1 computer for each unit in a cluster
Classes were scheduled in the studios based on the level of technology required for the course.
- Wire management systems were designed so that an instructor only had to unplug one cord to reconfigure clusters.