University to test out new learning techniques

By Teresa Lo

Students returning to the campus for the fall 2014 semester were greeted with a very big surprise: Construction on Campus Drive.

Photo by Hayden Williams
Photo by Hayden Williams

Over the summer, the university started constructing the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center. The building is not associated with any specific department or subject, but instead will be a place that houses new creative classroom settings and large open spaces for students to use to collaborate, according to Ben Bederson, the executive director of the Teaching and Learning Transformation Center.

There will be newly designed classrooms and lecture halls located in the building. Some new improvements include smart boards on all four walls of a room and multiple projection screens on different walls in a room, Bederson said. Therefore students can sit collaboratively at round tables and still be able to see what the professor is showing up on screen.

Bederson also mentioned lecture hall seats in the building will enable students to turn their chairs to face the row behind them, which will allow the students to engage in more discussion and problem solving in groups of six during class.

There will be Chemistry laboratories inside the building as well as offices for the TLTC and the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said Sharon Akers, the executive director for the Edward St. John Foundation.

The TLTC’s goal is to help professors and instructors learn how to better improve classroom settings and implement teaching methods, Bederson said.

“All the classrooms [in the building] will be designed to support active learning, so a decreased emphasis on lecture and an increased emphasis on projects, discussions, and interaction,” Bederson said.

Officials expect that upon completion, more than 10,000 students will use the learning center every day and it will become one of the main centers for student activity, much like McKeldin Library and Stamp Student Union, Bederson said.

The university initially approached the Edward St. John Foundation about funding for this project in 2008, Akers said. The foundation originally turned down the proposal until “the need for this space had become so critical for the university as a whole,” Akers said.

“It became such a wonderful project that was going to be a turning point in education for this university, that [Edward St. John] agreed to be a donor,” Akers said. “He committed $10 million to name it the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center.”

The new building will be 95,800 square feet and the construction contract is $40 million, according to the Clark Construction Group website, who are the builders for this development.


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