Going by the Enroth Hall that can be used – among many options – as overflow space for the auditorium, or as an extension or break-out room for activities in the atrium – and the Revive Coffee Shop, we reach the part of the building that houses two active learning classrooms, or ALCs. The hallway with a series of oversized windows and window-benches, offers a serene view of the courtyard, and creates yet another inviting, informal gathering place for students.
As you enter the first of twin Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs) , you probably can’t help but be surprised by both its size, and design. Each classroom can accommodate the entire junior or senior class of 153 nursing students, and has been designed to accommodate interprofessional courses in the future. And the two ALCs can also be merged into a single classroom space, providing sufficient seating for all undergrads in the Nursing program. With a combined seat capacity for 306 students, it is the largest active learning classroom anywhere.
But it’s not just the size, or the look of this space that makes it innovative. Because today’s healthcare relies heavily on teamwork, it’s important for nursing students to develop the skills necessary to work effectively as a team, and to quickly analyze, discuss, understand, and solve complex, real-life problems. And learning in an environment that requires students to actively engage with the topic, with other students, and with instructors tends to produce better, and longer-lasting results than passively listening to a lecture.
And so it is the way in which our courses are taught at the School of Nursing – and not merely the design, or size of the room – that makes all the difference. And in this case, the form follows function: Imagine groups of three-to-five students working together at each table on a care plan and discharge instructions for their patient who is about to leave the hospital to go home later today. Using their laptops, students bring up patient’s electronic health record, and all other relevant information pertinent to the case available at their fingertips, from notes, to images, to videos. Round table design encourages and facilitates collaboration, and makes engaging in discussion easier than a lecture hall. Each team can jot down and refine their ideas on ubiquitous dry-erase boards, small enough to be used on the table, but large enough to be used by the whole group. And, once the team is ready to share their ideas with the rest of the class, they can display any material, including their whiteboard content, on the team’s screen, as well as on all 34 screens of all tables in the room.
Unlike traditional lecture halls, these classrooms get pretty noisy – by design – with ongoing discussions and other task-oriented activities. ALCs also have another important function – they have been designed to serve as Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the UW-Madison Campus, should there ever be such a need. They will be used for emergency operations training on a regular basis. Many design features accommodate this role. Raised floor provides flexibility, should there ever be a need to rearrange or remove the connected table-core columns. All chairs in the room fold almost flat, and their bases can be nested and pushed to the sides of the room to free necessary space.
The second floor houses two additional, smaller active learning classrooms (above), each designed for 4 groups of 8 students. They have similar equipment, and work in a similar way as the larger rooms, but have additional video recording and video conferencing capability, which can be used for conducting joint courses classes with another campus, or remotely inviting guest speakers to class. Photos on this page: George Jura (CC by-nc-nd). This page last updated on February 12, 2016.