The 2022 winter semester included the debut of the Central Campus Classroom Building (CCCB), a new building containing seven classrooms that encourage innovative instruction. The most unique of these new rooms is the Classroom in the Round (CCCB 2420), which welcomed students and faculty in the 2022 fall semester.
The Classroom in the Round can seat 190 students, surrounding the instructor who is stationed at the center. Four 42-foot-long screens encircle the students and instructor.
This past fall 2022 term, instructors taught a wide range of topics in the room, from biology to costume design to movement science. Out of 716 student responses to a survey, 91 percent were somewhat or very likely to recommend taking a course in the Classroom in the Round. The design of the room, along with the technology, allowed for students to learn in different ways than in the standard lecture hall.
The circular shape of a room means that the furthest a student is away from their instructor is just five rows. Rows are also wider, allowing for instructors to easily move through the space and create greater intimacy within the learning community.
“If faculty members like to move around in order to gather student responses to questions or pose problems during class, this room is great. They can walk down the aisles and into rows to engage with students,” says Caroline Coy, a Senior Instructional Consultant with LSA Technology Services. The seats also swivel, allowing for students to easily transition to group work with students in front of or behind them.
Monika Dressler, Academic Technology Services Director, received feedback from instructors that they “feel a greater connection to students” in the space. It is much easier to see students’ faces and how they react to content. One particular example came from an instructor who was teaching a course on the Holocaust. Given the heavy nature of the course, he found he could more easily read students’ faces and adjust his content for the day if he was sensing they needed a break from disturbing or graphic images.
Students also found greater connection in the space, to both their peers and their instructor. Out of 626 students, 80 percent reported strongly/somewhat agreeing that the Classroom in the Round fosters a more welcoming environment, and 76 percent felt more connected to their instructors and classmates.
Written feedback from students affirms this data, including that “class feels more collaborative and inviting” and that “everyone is more engaged and cross-student dialogue is a lot more fun when you can see the faces of your peers.”
“The space can disrupt the traditional classroom hierarchy where the student role is to passively absorb knowledge from the professor,” says Coy. The shape of the room, particularly that the students can see each other’s faces and not the back of their classmates’ heads, encourages more student participation. Instructors can also easily sit and join the circle during discussion to promote student voice.
While the physical space alone is impressive, the technology available in the Classroom in the Round continues to encourage innovative instruction.
Each of the four curved screens uses three projectors, blended together to create one cohesive large image. John “Jan” Stewart, Lead Academic Technology Strategist with LSA Technology Services, finds that “you feel surrounded and enveloped by the four screens curving around you.”
LSA Technology Services created presets that are useful for instruction: a single projected image for normal slides, two or three projected images to showcase multiple slides at once, or ultrawide.
The large screens allow for multiple images/slides to be displayed at once, a feature that 93 percent of students found beneficial to their learning. For example, one third of a screen could display a slide with text, and two more slides on the same screen could display images related to the text.
Stewart found that throughout the fall semester instructors “slowly scaffolded up and added technology use.” They may start with basic slides that would be found in a traditional lecture hall, then add on as they get more comfortable.
Members of LSA Technology Services, including Stewart, Dressler, and Coy, met with every instructor who would teach in the room. Aside from basic training, the goal was to facilitate both what instructors currently do in the room, and what they would like to do in the future, given the new opportunities provided by the technology and unique layout of the Classroom in the Round.
One interesting use of the space and technology came from a dance class. The room allows for three wireless video sources, meaning three different computers, iPads, or phones could project simultaneously on the screen. The dance course utilized this feature by having a student dance in the center of the room, while three students used their cameras to film the dancing student from different angles. All three students could then project to screen, allowing for the student’s movement to be viewed from multiple angles at once.
LSA Technology Services is excited to see how instructors and students continue to use both the layout and the technology of the classroom in future semesters. Coy and Dressler both hope that instructors will continue to use the space to their advantage, whether it be by physically moving their bodies in the extra space the room affords, or having engaging activities like mock UN debates in the four quadrants of the room.
“We have lots of ideas and want to partner with faculty to hear their ideas,” said Coy. “We can’t wait to see what faculty come up with in the coming semesters,” added Dressler.
Reach out to LSA Technology Services Learning and Teaching Consultants if you would like help designing your course in any LSA Classroom.