Abandon the Cookie Cutter in Active Learning Design

Active learning design customized for your space

To achieve the custom design for your specific active learning classroom, keep an open mind. When the goal is to create a space for interpersonal and hands-on education, the options are limitless. The key is that the layout must invoke something different. A new style of learning can’t very well occur in the same environment we were conditioned to “sit still and listen”.

While it is easy to make an overhaul project of a complete redesign and restructure of a classroom an expensive one, there are economical ways to go about it. The same results can be achieved with a variety of table set ups, access to screens or whiteboards, and ease of movement in the room.

Though a renovation can typically run from $40,000 for new furniture and technology, the higher end gadgets in many spaces are unnecessary. An active learning outcome is possible on a budget.

Before initiating the process, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What’s the vision?
  2. What’s the focus?
  3. How flexible?
  4. What’s the budget?

While the answers to these questions can vary widely depending on the needs of the classroom, the outcome is the same. Focus on letting go of one ideal and the final product will be a perfect fit.

(Source: Campus Technology)

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The Active Learning Makeover: Don’t Discount Ugly Rooms

Using older rooms for an active learning environment makeover

Sometimes the most underutilized spaces on campus are the ideal testing grounds for active learning. Even if the space seems unfit, cluttered, small, or outdated, the main goal is to provide an environment where students can easily interact.

Think outside the box. Experiment with extra furniture and available rooms. The latest technology isn’t always crucial when the goal is for peers to interact and build upon ideas. The aesthetics of the space becomes less important when students are engaged enough, which is the ultimate goal of any instructor.

It’s also worth pointing out that starting with an underutilized space – especially if that space is considered the ugly duckling by your users – gives you at least two advantages. One: you’re likely to encounter less resistance to making significant changes than you would if you were to start with a particularly popular area of your facility. Two: you might be more likely to improve user satisfaction – if the room is that disliked, it can only improve.

When it comes right down to it, there are really only two absolutely necessary aspects to creating an active learning classroom: furniture that can be moved around to encourage group collaboration and the opportunity for students to work together.

(Source: Campus Technology)

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Active Learning Environments: Dealing with Internal Friction

There can be internal opposition to setting up an active learning environment

When preparing to implement a new active learning space, get ready for politics. Issues will most certainly arise if one department is being funded over another. Registrars in particular can make some noise because the more space given to active learning means increased difficulty for them to schedule courses with fewer available classrooms.

This means it is essential to gather your support and go to the board with a plan to present the benefits of active learning and evidence that the space is desired by a large group of people. After getting the go ahead, do some surveying. Get an idea of how students and faculty feel about their current classroom (the traditional learning space). After a semester of active learning implementation, survey again.

These polls can give insight into what worked about the new space and what didn’t. User input is critical when their education is on the line. If the space was overall successful, that result increases the chances of active learning space expansion in the future. If not, you can tweak where necessary to yield a better outcome a semester down the road. Work to find the right balance and active learning will transform any classroom for the better.

(Source: Campus Technology)

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Active Learning Environments: Making the Adjustment

Adjusting your environment for active learning can be difficult

Another aspect of the transition to an active learning classroom is getting everyone familiar with an entirely new set up and way of doing things. This change will take time and adjustments on the parts of both the students and the instructors.

Let students in on the goals of active learning so they are prepared with the changes and know to an extent what to expect. Introduce the new environment, immerse the class in interactions and activities that promote this style of learning, and give it time to catch on. Keep in mind that the transitional period needs to allow for some trial and error as everyone gets the hang of things. It may require moving furniture and technology around from the original vision, as you experiment with what is the most effective.

Remember that it is expected that a certain amount of traditional learning will still be taking place. It is easy to get the idea that a reformed space will overhaul the entire curriculum and learning process, but reality is, you end up getting some of both. The goal is met when active learning is increased and the interactions are gradually more creative and productive.

(Source: Campus Technology)

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The Active Learning Redesign: Consider Neutral Territory

Active learning computer lab on campus

When considering available options for setting up active learning spaces, remember locations around campus that can be useful for many groups. If these revamped environments can benefit a large number of students, not only is it more cost effective, but the positive outcomes of the active learning model will be more evident.

One of the challenges can be to find the right space to revamp due to internal political considerations. If the room being considered is restricted for use within in a particular department, others within the organization might understandably object that the proposed revamp will only benefit a relative minority of users.

One potential solution is to select central hubs where students gather and brainstorm ways to utilize these areas. One idea is to repurpose a portion of the library as an active learning center. Room to study, teach, and interact are the factors to consider most.

With all academic focuses having equal access to a single location, the active learning center can be geared to accommodate a variety of learning styles and outcomes. This is a unique and all-inclusive approach that will yield positive results across the board.

(Source: Campus Technology)

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