By: Lauren Beals
Many students on campus have developed a relationship with T-13. The home of first-year math exams and chemistry tutorials, this supposedly temporary building has been a student staple for over 40 years.
But room 127 is creating a new type of legacy. Recently outfitted with upgrades including projectors, white boards and student seating on wheels for easy movement, 127 has transformed into an active learning space created for student interaction.
The changes mark one step in a larger movement away from passive learning and towards the active learning missing from many university classrooms.
Arshad Ahmad, McMaster’s Associate Vice-President of Teaching & Learning says that there are many drawbacks to traditional lectures. “It really is an old-school thought. [Lectures] were an efficient way of conveying information when information was not accessible, but now the information is very accessible. If a student can go online and read the information they are not going to find it very interesting in class,” he explained.
Unlike traditional lecture halls, 127 provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge and collaborate with peers to solve problems.
Projector screens along all four walls allow instructors to display multiple resources, while white boards encourage students to actively work out practice problems. A central screen and command system also preserves instructor control over the busy classroom and its technology.
Ahmad thinks that students want to learn actively from an early age. “It brings out the best in people by giving them the opportunity to show motivation and interest,” said Ahmad. “If you ask a parent how their child completes a project, it isn’t just by sitting and watching them. They are moving around, they are doing things, that is how they learn.”
Despite the advantages, the spread of active learning across campus requires more renovations, smaller class sizes and the commitment of instructors to reshape course structures. Students must also prepare to embrace group work and more frequent problem-based evaluations.
“There are definitely a lot of real challenges associated with this type of learning, that is for sure. But we need a cultural shift where this type of learning is the norm. This needs to be the norm. Students and teachers need to demand this type of learning,” said Ahmad.
Currently, room 127 can be requested for use by student groups by contacting student Conference and Event Services. Faculty can request academic booking by contacting the registrar’s office.
“We need a cultural shift where this type of learning is the norm.“
For students who wish to pursue active learning in other ways, Ahmad urges them to speak with professors and peers about how they learn beyond the course outline. “You would be surprised how many people are willing to have that conversation,” he said.