Friday, 29 November 2013

The Teaching Room Refurbishment was a Great Success.... or was it?


Response 1

In earlier posts I have written about the problem of pleasing all the people all of the time. The responses below amplify this problem. The first response is not overly critical but you can see the difference in need from these two lecturers using the same room.
I now there will be people reading this shouting the 'f' word...flexible. This is not a panacea for all rooms. It has it's place but we also need specific layouts, and that being the case, the needs of the user should be matched up with room types available. If only it were that simple!
This is the room discussed.
Response 1
C43 is not quite so appropriate for the class I have - I have a grammar lecture with finalists and because of the set-up they have to twist around to look at me and then twist back to write at the tables. When I use PowerPoint it seems to be ok as there is more than one screen they can watch. It's the same problem with the middle whiteboard needing water for cleaning, so I tend to avoid it and use the other two. With another class immediately following in another building there is no time to spend doing lots of cleaning.

Response 2
Overall I think the refurbishment (C43) is excellent, and has allowed me to change the way my lectures run, because of the new layout - much more favourable for in-class discussions etc. Below are a few more specific comments for you:

a)      The technology - to a very high standard. Not used to its full potential yet - this is mostly due to planning on my part.

b)      The decoration - bright and vibrant. creates a much nicer atmosphere to work in.

c)       Lighting and lighting control - simple, easy to use and effective in each of the pre-programmed modes,

d)      Blackout - not had to use, so can't comment.

e)      Furniture type - I like the 'triangular' tables for small groups. I think it could work up to groups of 40-50 students too, so would encourage larger, similar rooms. Chairs comfortable.

f)       Furniture layout - flexible. I would actually like another table in C43 near the front (or at least the option to request another table).

g)      Does the room work for you? If not why not? - absolutely, and I was sceptical at the beginning.

h)      Other comments good or bad. - more of the same!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Wordle of my Blog to date. I was pleased to see that 'students' is the dominant word Wordle: Wordle of

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A Busy Summer of Learning Space Refurbishments at Aberystwyth University.

This summer I have been refurbishing 41 teaching spaces of various sizes from capacities of 12 to 200+.
 I have also converted spaces previously used as offices and a computer workshop to a post graduate centre.  
The usual issues of attempting to maintain capacities whilst attempting to enable different teaching methods arose but with some common sense, compromise and new designs I managed to achieve most of the objective.
I used three types of layouts:
1) Rectangular tables of various sizes.
2) Reuleaux Triangle
3) A system I call 'Turn and Learn' which is a 350mm x 2000mm rectangular desk with 3 swivel seats that allow the 3 students to turn to a desk behind 800mm x 2000mm so that a group of 6 can be formed. I also used 3 different heights in one room to build in a rake on a flat floor.
I used (experimented) with different colour schemes which have been well received, something I was a little worried about as colours are so subjective.
I decided to install height adjustable task seats in all locations and the students have given good feedback on these. These address the range of shapes and sizes of students we have to cater for and a change to the hard, fixed height seats we installed in the past.
I installed dimmable lighting in all rooms which has pre-sets that are selected depending on what is happening in the room i.e. projection, group work, cleaning etc. but can also be overridden from the lectern which is using an Extron control system.
The technology installed consists of a height adjustable lectern, interactive screen on the lectern, voice amplification programme amplification, single and dual projection (depending on room layout and size) screens which can also be written on with dry marker pens, a document camera and web cam. This technology has helped me enhance the lecture capture system we use (Panopto) and it seems to have increased use amongst lecturers. I have also installed Ampetronic induction loops in all rooms for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
I have had very good feedback with some negative comments but that is always the way. For example I was stopped by one lecturer who complained that a room he was time tabled into was not suitable for group learning, no more than ten minutes later I was topped by another lecturer who complained about a room that was not laid out for 'traditional' lecture delivery. This just proves the point that pleasing everyone all the time is not possible and that time tabling needs to take account of the type of room a lecturer requires, of course the trick is providing enough of each type of room with adequate capacity. The 'Turn and Learn' help alleviate this problem.
I will post again when I have conducted some focus group reviews.

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