As styles of teaching and delivery change, we are being required to create a wider range of spaces to accommodate the changing needs of staff and students. We still need the traditional lecture theatres, classrooms and seminar rooms, and I can't see that changing in the foreseeable future at my own institution, so we also need to create new spaces that are adaptable and agile to users requirements.
A few years ago, we created an experimental "Active Learning Classroom". We took an old, 100 seat raked lecture theatre and turned it into a multi-level group working space for 40. Although we flooded it with technology, we were careful not to install anything fixed within the room in case we had to make rapid changes. This space is a fantastic teaching and learning venue, and we, the designers, managers and supporters of the space have also learned much to inform the development of future innovative spaces. One of the problems with teaching is that you may want different types of spaces at different times throughout the delivery of your module, and to accommodate this in an 11 week period in the timetable, it may be necessary to book out two rooms in order to switch between both during the term. This is wasteful, but we know that it happens.
The project we are now completing is the creation of an "interactive lecture theatre", a space where a teacher can deliver traditional teaching if appropriate, but can also have students working in defined groups all facing one another. Chairs that turn around have been around for years I know, but we wanted to do more than provide chairs with writing tablets, we wanted to create defined group working areas. The major problem with this has been the movable seating, seating that not only turns around so you can face the students behind, but also allows you to reach the writing/work surface.
We have now achieved this by using traditional furniture supplied through a UK manufacturer together with a seating system manufactured in the USA. The fitters are in as I write, and this is what it currently looks like....
|Curved, fixed seating|
|View from the lectern, 3 "i-desks" at the rear of the room|
The room accommodates 12 groups of 8. The fixed row consists of 5 seats curved in to improve group working (an idea borrowed from one of the lecture theatres at the University of Strathclyde) and the twirly seats are arranged in rows of 3 to give them both space to turn and also mesh with the group behind to avoid clashes with books etc. The refurbishment of the room was actually completed last September, but the twirly seats had not arrived so we used operators chairs temporarily until the correct seating arrived. you can see them at the side of the room.
Feedback from staff and students has been very good notwithstanding the fact that the room wasn't complete, so we will be undertaking more formal evaluation of the room and facilities soon.