UND focuses on open space to foster collaborative learning
On any day of the week, fifth-year senior Carly Rothfusz can been found studying on a large, blue couch next to the fireplace in the Education Building at the UND. It's a far cry from traditional classrooms with white boards and hard metal desks ...
On any day of the week, fifth-year senior Carly Rothfusz can been found studying on a large, blue couch next to the fireplace in the Education Building at the UND.
It’s a far cry from traditional classrooms with white boards and hard metal desks bolted to the floor, and Rothfusz prefers it that way.
“It’s more homey feeling with the fireplace and couches,” she said. “It’s a smaller space and the library is so open and kind of ‘blah’ feeling.”
Rothfusz isn’t alone. Senior Bailey Mankie said she enjoys having class in the campus’ newer SCALE-UP classroom, which encourages group activities rather than lectures, and studying in the lounges on campus because it’s easier to communicate with other students.
“It’s a good way for people to come together and try to find solutions to problems collaboratively rather than just struggling on their own,” she said.
UND officials have embraced the concept of collaborative learning by building a large, open room in the basement of the Education Building as part of the $12 million renovation of the building.
“This was designed with the notion in mind that we needed this style of space as opposed to the older-style classrooms,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson said.
The spacious room contains light, comfortable chairs and tables which can be easily moved around to create any type of space, but regardless of how useful the room appears, Director of Alumni Relations and Development Jena Pierce said, “It’s not used as often as it should be.”
Some of the more popular spaces for collaborative learning on campus are the smaller student lounges.
“A lot of students gather here together on group projects,” Pierce said. “While we hadn't necessarily intended for it to serve that purpose, it does. You can set up all the places you want; they congregate where they’re comfortable.”
Senior Justin Geffre said he uses many of the study areas throughout campus and thinks they’re valuable to students.
“It’s a little area for you to kind of chill out, wait for class, and work on a little studying before class starts,” he said.
Johnson said the university plans to incorporate more collaborate learning rooms and SCALE-UP classrooms in the new law school and medical school buildings.
While the design and layout for the buildings won’t be completed until the end of the school year, the school as a whole is going for a more open feel, as opposed to closed-off classrooms with rows of desks. For instance, the preliminary design for the law building includes multipurpose meeting rooms on every floor.
“We realize that people learn in different ways than we thought they did 50 or 60 years ago,” Johnson said.
UND is also involving faculty in its collaboration efforts by having offices from different departments in the same building.
“By intermixing, it sort of forces conversations with folks in other departments,” Johnson said.
Steve Light, associate vice president for academic affairs and interim dean of the College of Nursing and Professional Disciplines, said the nursing department is already looking at reworking some of their classrooms to fit this style of learning.
“We want to be at the forefront of collaborative learning and our investment in those spaces demonstrates that we’re committed to being a teaching and learning leader,” he said.