Collaborative Learning Spaces

What does the "classroom of the future" look like? Instead of the traditional lecture-oriented room, this new classroom emphasizes group learning and collaboration. The instructor serves as a facilitator, handing out projects, answering questions, providing resources, and moving around the room as necessary. Students work in groups to learn, and activities are structured to emphasize collaborative, active, student-based learning.


The new classroom of the future emphasize group learning and collaboration. Students sit in small groups, work together on problems, discuss solutions with their instructor, access data from the Internet, and present their results using multimedia software. There are 14 charactistics of a successful collaborative classroom. You can view the video which is approximately 8 minutes long. It outlines the characteristics below:

  1. Multiple electronic display surfaces oriented on different walls:
    • Projected images using ceiling mounted projectors for large groups.
    • Wall-mounted flat panels, 42” or larger, which can be shifted from side to side for small workgroups to display computer-based materials.
  2. Good portion of perimeter walls are made up of writing surfaces:
    • Traditional white boards.
    • Magnetic so can be use as tack up surfaces.
    • Cork to display paper-based materials
  3. Lightweight, moveable and reconfigurable furniture:
    • Accommodates workgroups of various sizes.
    • Carpet enables easy navigation of furniture and has accessible power and data outlets.
    • Chairs are on wheels to enable easy navigation.
    • Room size allows for easy reconfiguration during activities.
    • Can configure a tradition classroom setup if needed.
  4. Instructor station should be smaller and mobile:
    • Instructor wanders the classroom, listening to discussions, answering questions, etc.
  5. Remote control of audiovisual equipment:
    • Usually mounted on a wall.
    • Provides access to network devices and storage, control display devices, etc.
  6. Wireless and hardwired network connectivity available:
    • Hardwired outlets to provide support for ultra-high-bandwidth applications.
    • Wall outlets for recharging equipments and to power portable equipment.
  7. Lighting:
    • Fixtures should be located close to projection screens for easy on/off access.
    • Use indirect lighting for soft illumination.
    • Sensors to automatically turn on/off lighting when room in use.
  8. HVAC System/Acoustics:
    • Should be quiet.
    • Each room has own controls.
    • Insulated so sound does not disturb nearby classrooms.
    • Classrooms interconnected so they can be opened up for overflow/large classes.
  9. Computers:
    • Mobil cart of laptops for student use.
    • Cart is a powering station for laptops when not in use.
  10. Student work surfaces:
    • Located on 1 or 2 sides of the periphery so students can assemble projects, use doc camera, printer or computers.
  11. Dedicated computer and DVD player:
    • Are cable/satellite ready and able to receive Internet based video programming.
    • Available connectivity for personal video devices, such as iPods/iPads and notebooks.
  12. Speakers:
    • Ceiling mounted or flat panel provides sound from recorded or live programs.
  13. Dedicated video capabilities:
    • Camera at front and rear of room to capture all activities which can be distributed for later viewing or used for DE activities.
    • Teleconferencing to enable collaborating with remotely located groups and guest lecturers.
  14. Closed equipment niche:
    • Access technology when necessary and hide when not in use (laptop cart, but still needs to be charging the pc’s).
    • Back access to equipment to enable easy maintenance.

Budget Concerns

  • Ensure that building infrastructure, power, conduit, sight lines and support structures are ready before purchasing computer and audio/visual equipment.
  • The front/no front orientation of the room will work for both traditional classroom and studio classroom setup.
  • Initial investment + ongoing costs (vendors + support personnel).
  • Recorders, server software, server software support, partnerability, Content Management system, Branding, replacement costs for equipment/furniture.
  • Rent out room to outside groups to recoup costs.


Other Resources

  1.  Current Developments in Technology-Assisted Education pdf
    • Students who actively engage with the material are more likely to recall information later and be able to use that information in different contexts. Activities that encourage student involvement are incorporated into the teaching plan. Example activities include: class discussion, small group discussion, debate, posing questions to the class, short written exercises and polling the class. New conceptions of the classroom are being driven by the emergence of new methods of teaching and learning.
    • It is necessary to design a classroom that will accommodate a wide variety of learning activities: lectures, cooperative learning and group activities, learning by teaching or presentations or lectures by students, multimedia technology in classroom, etc.
    • The classroom was equipped with different devices, such as a teacher computer, adjustable and mobile tables for students, an overhead projector, a whiteboard, five laptops for being used by students, internet access through wireless network and an electronic whiteboard used as an interactive projection screen.
  2. Designing Learning Spaces for 21st Century Learners pdf
    • Research shows that student learning styles have changed, therefore we need learning spaces to accommodate a new generation who:
      • Prefer multitasking and quick, non linear access to information,
      • Are visually‐ oriented,
      • Are highly networked, interactive and social,
      • Are increasingly mobile,
      • Have a low tolerance for lecture style teaching,
      • Prefer active learning rather than passive learning, and
      • Rely heavily on communications technologies to access information and to carry out social and professional interactions.
  3. To meet the principles of contemporary learning, new and refurbished spaces need to be:
    • Flexible,
    • Connected,
    • Collaborative,
    • Multisensory, and
    • Graphic.
    • The new spaces need to be a blend of physical and virtual environments.
  4. Mayo Clinic: Classroom of the Future. View the slideshow – even though it shows elementary school-aged children, I think some of their ideas will work for higher education:
    • Designed the first chairless school — complete with "standing" desks and a host of sophisticated learning technologies.
    • Students use laptops and iPods/iPads standing before podiums to keep them active and engaged.
    • Students sit on throw rugs or run remnants using laptops, etc.
    • Instructors are free to move among the students unhindered by tables and chairs.
    • Students can move freely for group work without worry about moving tables and chairs.
  5. Educause Learning Spaces E-Book
    • 43 chapter e-book that focuses on how learner expectations influence such spaces, the principles and activities that facilitate learning, and the role of technology from the perspective of those who create learning environments: faculty, learning technologists, librarians, and administrators.
  6. Does Space Matter? Classroom Design and Team-Based Learning article
    • Springer, Stanne, and Donovan conducted a meta-analysis of undergraduate science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (SMET) research, concluding “Students who learn in small groups generally demonstrate greater academic achievement, express more favorable attitudes toward learning, and persist through SMET courses or programs to a greater extent than their more traditionally taught counterparts.”
    • Several studies have found that seating choice is correlated with student participation and learning (Sommer 1967; Becker, Sommer, and Oxley).
    • Seating and spatial features such as walls and doors have been found to influence group interactions as well.
    • Rooms to accommodate SCALE-UP typically have six-foot diameter round tables that seat eight to nine students and include connections for laptops. Movable seating allows students to adjust their workspace for smaller groups to work together at a table shared with one or two other groups. Such rooms can accommodate relatively large numbers of students and may replace the separate lecture and laboratory sections common in science classes with an interactive lecture/activity program design.
    • The main idea behind all types of small group activities in classrooms is to increase individual learning by actively engaging the students in the learning process. Increased student learning should be reflected as improved performance on individual assignments.

Examples of Alternative Classrooms in Higher Education