Vintage photo of an old lecture hall.
Vintage lecture hall - 1920s.

The University of Iowa’s General Assignment Classrooms have seen more student-focused improvements in recent years, thanks to a joint partnership between the Office of the Registrar and ITS Office of Teaching Learning & Technology (OTLT). Beginning in 2012, Teaching and Learning Technologies staff has been conducting observational sessions in campus classrooms and surveying different campus class participants to identify specific improvements that could be made to standard classrooms to enhance student learning.

Those research efforts have helped us select classrooms on campus to update with additional writing surfaces and easier access to power sockets for laptops, cell phones, and other devices. Project team members also focused on right-sizing the type and amount of seating in a given classroom. In several cases, seat counts were reduced to increase space and reconfigure seating. Traditional tablet arm chairs were also replaced with newer “collaboration-style tablet seating,” which offer casters for more mobility and feature storage space and writing surfaces to accommodate student gear.

In addition, Seamans Center 4030 was outfitted with standing-height student workstations to offer students an alternative to the seated classroom experience.

Surveys of instructors and students indicate that the changes have positively impacted the teaching and learning experience in these rooms.

“It’s great that we’ve been able to make modest changes,” says Chris Clark, director of ITS OTLT Learning Spaces group. “So far, we’ve limited the number of rooms we’re invested in—seven rooms were tweaked in 2014—which has allowed us to evaluate what changes are best received by our students and faculty.”

Clark notes that the lessons learned from these spaces will shape a new four- classroom renovation project on the fourth floor of Van Allen hall this summer.

“From student interactions and faculty feedback, we’ve learned a great deal about how some modest changes to traditional classrooms can have a meaningful impact on student experience.”