Jennifer Redd, PhD , Director, eCampus, San José State University
The classroom is nothing new in the realm of higher education. What is new is the way that it needs to transform to reflect the evolving teaching practices. This is not limited to one method or strategy but rather involves a careful and close review of the technology and pedagogy trends and practices that continuously change. To guide the development of smart learning environments on a campus, there should be a focus on a specific goal: developing a space that is conducive for learning. This can take into account aspects that are both classroom-based and support-based while reflecting the voices of the faculty on the campus.
Classroom Based Aspects
The physical attributes of a classroom in the past may have relied only on two basic features: furniture and a front-centered board. Over time, these two features need to update to reflect the current teaching practices known to lead to student success. This begins with evolving the furniture options within the classroom. The selection should encourage active teaching techniques by means of moveable furniture. In addition, with moveable furniture, the room no longer needs to maintain a front-facing only option. Instead, the walls can get covered with dry erase boards or other resources.
"A smart learning environment should equally reflect the classroom design and the support structures necessary for implementation. Attention should focus on curricular trends adopted by faculty that support learning with the redesign of classrooms to follow"
The available technology in the classroom should follow the trends of instruction, which involves presenting information digitally. As a result classrooms should include one or more projectors and/or flat panel monitors with audio/video connection options. Related to the technology used for instruction, the potential of a classroom should provide faculty with multiple ways to engage their students.This can range from simply providing numerous outlets toadvanced configurations that allow wireless connections to the projection screen and use of mobile applications. Classroom design decisions should take a team-based approach between classroom architects, network professionals, and learning designers that support common teaching practices as well as faculty recommendations.
Support Based Aspects
Only one half of a successful smart learning environment involves the physical attributes of the room. The other half involves a robust support structure. This begins with having an advanced just-in-time support team in place to resolve technical issues promptly as they occurring. For sophisticated rooms, support should be available for the first week or two in-classroom (without request) to ensure a smooth session. In addition, one way to reduce the need and potential occurrence of support calls is through ongoing professional development opportunities. One-on-one sessions can occur that provide training specific to a classroom, but also workshops should get offered that do not only focus on the technical capabilities of a classroom, but also the potential of what can occur in the classroom. Providing faculty with opportunities to connect with instructional designers, who have specializations in technology and course design, allow the opportunity for the development of unique course experiences for students.
Another component of support involves the development of online resources. For example, guides should provide step-by-step instructions on how to use the equipment available in a room. A step further would be to have online reference materials for each room. This might include a checklist of the features of the classroom, a diagram of the room structure, and a 360° immersive image of the classroom. Each of these resources provide an opportunity to gain familiarity with a classroom and visualize the capabilities.
A smart learning environment should equally reflect the classroom design and the support structures necessary for implementation. Attention should focus on curricular trends adopted by faculty that support learning with the redesign of classrooms to follow.