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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

EmergingEdTech: Three More Examples of Collaborative Classrooms in Higher Education

by Sarah Rivkind on July 30, 2013
I’ve been very interested in collaborative classroom design recently, and suggested it as a topic to guest writers a few weeks back. This week we have two articles on the topic, Sunday’s “The Growing Use of Collaborative Classroom Spaces in Higher Education” and today’s post, featuring three more examples. I have no doubt that educators will continue to increasingly embrace the way in which these flexible learning spaces expand the possibilities for engaging with students, making them yet another emerging use of instructional technologies. – KW
The college classroom experience is changing. Colleges and universities can no longer afford to rest on past successes to attract new graduates. Instead, they must entice and engage today’s technology-driven students with innovative approaches to teaching. As a result, many colleges and universities are transforming traditional instructor-led lectures into collaborative classrooms.
Collaborative classrooms emphasize group learning like never before. This classroom model goes beyond typical group assignments – students work in established groups throughout the semester while instructors provide direction and feedback on learning concepts and performance. In a collaborative classroom, students work together much like an office environment where workers collaborate on projects. This type of interactive learning environment helps prepare students for future success in the business world.
Collaborative classrooms have also changed the look of the teaching space. Instead of arranging desks in single-file rows with a lecture table at the front of the room, collaborative classrooms contain group tables. Instructors assign activities and walk around the room to assist groups and address issues as they come up. Say goodbye to the lazy student in the back row taking a nap through an entire lecture – all students are required to be involved and participate in a collaborative classroom.
According to Herman Miller ( – recognized innovator in contemporary interior furnishings, solutions for healthcare environments, and related technologies and services – traditional classrooms are perceived as boring, oppressive, and intimidating by a majority of students whereas collaborative classrooms are viewed as inviting, flexible, and highly conducive to learning.
Several colleges and universities across the country are adopting collaborative learning centers as part of their curriculum. Let’s take a look at a few:
Penn State University
Penn State is continually incorporating collaborative learning spaces into its classroom renovation projects. The technology in the classrooms includes projection equipment, large monitors, comfortable seating, and sound and technical equipment so students can be successful working together.
Penn State also recently built a new collaborative learning environment, dubbed the ‘Problem Practice and Teamwork Room’, for students looking to work in a group dynamic on math and science problems for instance. This room is equipped with a four-foot-wide wall-mounted monitor, a whiteboard over twenty feet long, and a portable whiteboard. The tables are also easily rearranged or folded for stacking. “What was important is that the room was set up to facilitate collaboration. The students are encouraged to work out solutions among themselves with minimal prodding from the facilitators,” stated James Hager, faculty resident scholar in math and physical sciences for Penn State Learning.
Sheridan College recently decided to build a new wing of flexible classrooms in its Brampton Campus with 20 new “classrooms of the future”. They worked with a premier AV and IT integrator Advanced to design and implement these new facilities.
The flex classrooms include multiple (up to six) commercial grade projectors, along with computers and document cameras. The audio configuration consists of Extron Digital Matrix Processors and Power Amplifiers, and Shure wireless gooseneck microphones. Every room incorporates an identical control panel, so educators can easily teach a class in any of the rooms once they learn the basics of the interface. Each flex classroom also includes network-connected mobile podiums, allowing educators to present lessons from any area of the room.
According to this article, “the Co-Lab is a six-projector room that consists of the same video and audio components as the flex classrooms and features a podium that allows educators to control four video sources simultaneously. The Co-Lab is equipped with two modes — classroom and team — that allow for different methods of presentation. Classroom mode lets educators present their lessons on the main projector screen, while team mode allows for projected content to be distributed to six separate areas of the classroom, perfect for group work.”
Center for Teaching at Vanderbilt University
Thanks to a move in 2008, the Center for Teaching was renovated into a flexible learning environment with a large workshop area fitted with mobile walls that can accommodate large and small groups. The space also includes advanced technology including collaboration software, a projection system, and SMARTboard interactive whiteboards that educators can use in their classes.
As a mother of two children, who I hope will attend college; I am excited about where higher education is headed. It’s refreshing to think that our children will get a head start on working closely with fellow students to prepare them for the workforce. Every chance a student has to work and collaborate with peers puts them closer to understanding what will be expected of them when they graduate and enter the workforce.
What are your thoughts on collaborative classrooms? Do they take education to a new level?
Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
The Growing Use of Collaborative Classroom Spaces in Higher Education
Preparing Students for the Global Workplace with Collaborative Online International Learning
Sal Khan’s One World Schoolhouse – Powerful Ideas Persuasively Expressed


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