Technology Upgrades Modernize Classroom for Penn State Students and Faculty

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Thanks to a grant from Penn State’s Learning Spaces Leadership Committee and matching funding from the campus, Classroom 112 in the campus’ Gallagher Conference Center has received some impressive new technology upgrades.

Penn State Scranton’s Information Technology (IT) department implemented the upgrades in December, which included collaborative worktables, wall-to-wall whiteboards, comfortable chairs, new flooring and short throw projectors with solstice pods at each of the five worktables – which provide an active learning environment with content sharing capabilities for faculty and students.

The classroom has also been revamped with whiteboard material surrounding the entire room, which provides the opportunity to share content in a non-technical way.

“It’s not a room where students are going to be sitting and listening to a lecture,” said campus Director of Information Technology Marilee Mulvey. “It’s a room that’s designed for students to interact with each other and with their instructors and the technology. It’s all about keeping the students engaged in different ways in the class and with the course materials.”

Mulvey mentioned that the idea came from the Teaching and Learning Technology (TLT) Department at University Park.

Currently, there are seven total rooms like this at University Park and 14 rooms altogether throughout the Commonwealth campuses, Scranton, Abington, Altoona, Berks, Erie, Greater Allegheny, Great Valley, Lehigh Valley, Schuylkill and Wilkes-Barre.

“It’s really a brand-new environment for us. We don’t have another classroom like this on the campus,” Mulvey said.

New Technology, New Capabilities

Thanks to the newly implemented technology, faculty now have new capabilities in this classroom through flexibility in the types of classroom exercises this room supports.

“When we are looking at upgrading our classrooms, we want to make sure we are enabling active learning in those rooms because of how powerful that can be for our students,” Mulvey said. “The room provides a new look on possibilities of course materials and concepts.”

Faculty members will be able to decide how and when to use the features of the classroom for their course materials. And, faculty can consult with campus Instructional Designer Griff Lewis to brainstorm new ideas for delivering course materials.

Both students and instructors can share their content on the screen and across the classroom – creating a visual aspect to the active learning experience. Users must be authenticated to Penn State Scranton’s Wi-Fi for sharing content.

“When designing our classrooms, we look at providing an updated space for current students and faculty, and we also look at what our prospective students may be experiencing in high school,” Mulvey said. “That way, when they come to Penn State Scranton, they are comfortable in our learning spaces.”

The technology is in tune with three out of the five senses including sight, touch and sound.

“Everybody learns in their own unique way,” Mulvey said, explaining how some students like to read, while others prefer to see images or hear things. “This room gives that flexibility for instructors to try to reach different students in their learning styles.”

Like faculty, students can share content in a seamless manner due to the room’s design and flexibility.

“When we find faculty on our campus who are interested in trying something new, that is the absolute best possible scenario,” Mulvey explained. “We support their courses by providing them with these types of technologies to enhance their teaching and increase engagement with the students.”

Because of the room’s flexibility, any academic program can use the classroom’s technology to its full advantage.

“I think it’s a terrific room – all of the changes really enhance the overall environment of the classroom,” Mulvey said, adding that, “we’ve had a very positive response from the faculty so far.”

In fact, a variety of faculty members from diverse backgrounds including the biology, business, kinesiology, meteorology and physics departments have all taken the opportunity to house their classes within the revamped room this semester or are planning on using it in future semesters.