HOW TO IMPROVE CLASSROOMS: AN EXPLORATORY APPROACH
Education is developing in multiple directions: Massification provides access to higher education for many more people resulting in a request for larger lecture halls. Personalisation on the other hand demands smaller learning spaces. Thirdly, interactive classes ask for convertible settings, i.e. frontal instruction and group work within one and the same classroom.
Universities dealing with this situation mostly choose the seat capacity option; more seats to facilitate more students appears to be a straight forward strategy. However, a study aiming at occupation and utilisation of lecture halls over an academic year revealed that for 64 percent of the available lecture halls a reservation was made. In practice only 49 percent were actually occupied, from which not more than 32 percent of the seats were used. Such numbers indicate a meagre use of the available capacity. Moreover, the results and additional interviews indicated that the applied educational practices did not match the present available spaces. Thus, questions arose about mixed educational practices and interactive classes, such as what educational settings are tomorrow’s practices and what modern technology is needed to facilitate these?
To obtain insight into future practices usually the teaching force is approached with questionnaires and interviews. However, outlining the future of higher education with such methods is subject of debate. Generally studies deliver answers aiming at a more efficient use of the actual situation instead of presenting new practices based on modern technology. Hence, at Delft University of Technology a more exploratory approach was followed. Specialists from Audio-Visual and Information Technology departments have observed the current educational uses, they scanned technologies common on the market and have set up some experiments.
Three questions were leading:
1) How can an interactive whiteboard resemble the applied chalkboard pedagogy for scientific practices at our technical university
2) How can multiple practices be facilitated in one and the same classroom
3) How can audio-visual signals be transported between classrooms and buildings in a trustful and manageable way?
The experiments were discussed with lecturers, support staff and pedagogy advisers resulting in a kind of blueprint for flexible classrooms. To validate the collected guidelines, these had to be tested in practice. Henceforth, the explored technology has been intertwined and installed in a test classroom, which is in use since November 2012. In this paper the test classroom is described including its thoughts and considerations.