Instructors lecturing to a classroom of students will probably remain the most common form of higher-education teaching and learning for the time being, but active learning classrooms (ALCs) are on their way.
These student-centered seating setups—stocked with tech tools to enable sharing and collaboration and encourage greater participation—were cited as the top strategic technology in 2017 in a new report from the Educause Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR).
The report considers ALCs as experimental for now, although it forecasts they will become mainstream within five years, along with a number of other research, academic, and administrative technologies to support such activities as degree auditing, mapping educational plans, integrating student data, public-cloud storage, utilizing mobile devices and apps, and alumni/donor relations.
A fully tricked-out ALC might feature round or curved tables with freestanding chairs so students can work in groups and reconfigure the furniture as needed based on their activities. The tables might come with whiteboards, LCD displays to enable students to share their computer work with the class, Wi-Fi for on-the-spot web research and connections to the school’s learning management system and library, and microphones to aid discussions in larger rooms.
“In practice,” the report conceded, “considerable variation in the levels and combinations of low and high technology persist due to costs, infrastructure, and goals.” Educause recommended that institutions become more familiar with ALCs already in operation at similar schools and work with instructors to determine how the technology might fit into their academic programs.