Rooms Offer “Sneak Peak” of Academic InnovationsJanuary 21, 2014

This semester, the oldest building at Rockhurst University is offering a glimpse into the newest addition to campus.

Before the University even breaks ground on Pedro Aruppe, S.J., Hall  March 7, faculty and students are getting the chance to see how new learning spaces in that facility might function, with four rooms in Sedgwick Hall temporarily outfitted with new furniture and equipment.

According to Matt Heinrich, associate vice president for facilities and technology, the sneak preview gives everyone a chance to experience ­— and give input on — some of the new approaches to learning that could become part of Arrupe Hall.

“We didn’t want to just change things without giving faculty and students some opportunity to figure out what works and what doesn’t work,” he said.

Sedgwick 202, 224, 229 and 226 are each set up in a different fashion, reflecting different aspects of teaching and learning. For instance, Heinrich said Sedgwick 224 is equipped with Air Media technology, which allows instructors and students to broadcast videos on screens located at each table or for each station to bring up separate content. The technology is wireless, meaning faculty can control what’s on the screen with nearly any mobile device.

In other classrooms, the changes are simpler, but still significant. Sedgwick 202, for example, is set up like a standard classroom, with a table for the lecturer and desks for students in front of it — but in this case, all of those common elements are made mobile with the addition of wheels. Sedgwick 229 encourages a new classroom dynamic with a variety of learning options for students, from café-style group seating to long, rectangular conference tables and erasable “huddle boards” which can be either mounted to the wall or taken back to a group work area. Most of those elements, Heinrich said, can be rearranged to fit the need of the individual class.

“When we were talking about the new building, the thing that we heard over and over was flexibility,” Heinrich said. “It’s got to be something that’s easily reconfigurable because learning styles change and teaching styles change.”

The new setups also help facilitate collaboration, another trend in a changing learning landscape.

“Collaboration is something that has been shown to increase retention, engagement and performance,” he said. “So a lot of the features of these rooms are meant to enhance that collaborative process whenever possible.”

Heinrich said the University is looking for as much feedback as possible on what works and doesn’t work from the people who will use those spaces the most. Eight weeks into the semester, Heinrich said the University will ask faculty and students to provide their opinions on the new setups, with the results informing what of the equipment the University might implement in the classrooms of Arrupe Hall. 

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