How technology-enabled classroom design increases student interaction and learning retention

For the past six years, universities across the country have struggled with falling student enrollment numbers. It’s not just smaller and less well-known institutions that are dealing with this problem, it’s also a serious issue for bigger and more established universities. With that being said, universities have been looking for ways to attract more students in an increasingly competitive environment, where the average student has more choices than ever.

In response, institutions have been coming up with new ways to attract students. Take Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering, for example. The school launched its 25 by 25 initiative with a plan to grow its total enrollment number by 25,000 in 2025.

At the heart of this initiative is a plan to attract some of the world’s brightest students by showing them how the school has invested in cutting edge technology and state-of-the-art facilities like the Zachry Engineering Education Complex (ZEEC).

To differentiate itself from the competition, the College of Engineering made an investment to turn the ZEEC into the country’s largest spaces for student-centered active learning.

What’s active learning and how is good for students?

Active learning is “anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing” according to researchers from the Association for the Study of Higher Education.

For instructors, this means using teaching approaches that are focused on helping students explore their own thoughts about the material they’re learning while also developing their skills through hands-on activities. As we’ve written about before, active learning is different from passive learning, where students are just absorbing new information in lecture-type settings.

Year after year, researchers have continued to find that active learning benefits students. Studies have shown that in active learning environments, students engage more, have higher knowledge retention and even score better on tests.

That explains why educators have pushed for classrooms that promote active learning, such as the as student-centered active learning environment with upside down pedagogies (SCALE-UP) approach or the technology enabled active learning (TEAL) environments.

How technology-enabled classroom design shapes active learning

The goal of active learning is to create a space where students can do stuff to make sense of the information they’re absorbing in class. That’s why classroom design is so important. The good news? Designing SCALE-UP classrooms and TEAL spaces doesn’t have to be complicated.

Before its massive redesign, the ZEEC had many lecture halls, where instructors relied on using a projector or a whiteboard that faces students in an auditorium-style layout. This kind of design only worked well for lectures. So the university looked for a partner that could transform its 45-year-old center into a 24/7 modern learning facility that increases student collaboration.

So it leaned on ThinkHub Connect, our software-based collaboration platform that gave the school the freedom and flexibility it needed to transform the ZEEC’s classrooms.

ThinkHub Connect was the all-in-one software-based platform that had many powerful capabilities including:

  • Fewer hardware components, meaning fewer points of failure and fewer onboarding requirements for both existing and first-time users
  • Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) wireless device sharing capabilities that can connect to an unlimited number of wireless devices
  • Multi-user capabilities that can connect 100 plus users at once
  • Digital whiteboard capabilities that not only have all of the functionality of a traditional whiteboard, but also provide a touchscreen interface where work can be saved, emailed or printed
  • TouchControl capabilities that allow instructors to control all connected devices during class sessions
  • Remote capabilities that make video conferencing easy
  • Single touch broadcasting – broadcast any content on the Canvas, or the entire Canvas, to ensure everyone is on the same page

Our partnership with the TAMU College of Engineering helped the university launch its most ambitious project yet.

What’s more is that the new active learning studios, which will launch in the fall of 2018, are equipped with powerful features that include Wi-Fi-powered workstations with multi-device sharing screens perfect for student groups, wall-mounted touch screens that act as a digital whiteboard, and an instructor tablet that gives instructors full control over the instructional content that’s being broadcasted.

In these new active learning spaces, instructors have the tools they need to monitor student work and progress in real-time. At any given point, students can also share their work to the rest of the class.

The work we did with Texas A&M University is just one example of how great classroom design can promote active learning experiences that will transform how students learn.

To learn more about the impact of how classroom design shaped active learning at Texas A&M University check out our case study.

Join us on our next ThinkHub Connect webinar on July 26th to learn more. Click here to see our full webinar schedule.

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