New classroom building at Oregon State features cutting edge technology, design

The LInC building will offer a variety of formal and informal learning spaces. Image courtesy Boora architects

The LInC building will offer a variety of formal and informal learning spaces. Image courtesy Boora architects

Oregon State University is celebrating the grand opening of a new state-of-the-art academic building that will showcase classrooms unlike any found elsewhere on university campuses.

A celebration of the new space will be held at the building on Tuesday, Sept. 22, beginning at 1 p.m. in the Arena Classroom (Room 100), 165 S.W. Sackett Place. Open house tours will follow the program.

Built to serve every department on campus, the new Learning Innovation Center (known as LInC) was designed by Portland-based Boora Architects and includes 2,300 seats of formal teaching space and 640 seats of student-directed informal learning space.

The 134,000-square-foot academic building will showcase large-scale, active learning classroom formats never seen before.

“Considerable thought and work went into designing the learning spaces in LinC to enhance student learning broadly, accommodate various learning styles, and promote collaborative learning,” said Sabah Randhawa, OSU provost and executive vice president. “In addition to providing much needed classroom capacity for our expanding student body, LinC provides a technology-rich and supportive learning environment for faculty and students.”

A 600-seat classroom.

A 600-seat classroom.

Based upon principles of ideal physical proximity and visibility between student and instructor, the design includes two “in the round” arena style classrooms of 600 and 300 seats.  The larger classroom collapses the distances separating student and instructor to just eight rows or 30 feet. Four aisles extend from the center of the room, enabling faculty to come within 15 feet of every student in the space.

Lois Brooks, OSU vice provost for Information Services, participated in the design of the building. She said she’s excited to be a part of an endeavor that focuses on utilizing space to enhance classroom experiences. “It emphasizes collaboration, active learning and excellent teaching.”

The Parliament Room, inspired by the layout of the British House of Commons, is a curved, double-loaded classroom that accommodates 175 students and will encourage discourse and debate among students and faculty.  In this classroom, students are no further than five rows from their professor at any one time.

Brooks said the designs, even for the larger classroom, create a more intimate space where the professor can roam rather than remaining static, and can engage students directly, even in large courses.

“These rooms put the instructor as close to the student as possible so students don’t drift away during lectures,” Brooks said. The classrooms are equipped with wireless technology so no one is tethered to one place, and each has at least two screens so faculty or students can project multiple images, ideas or presentations at once.

Traffic flow will be toward the outside of the building with classrooms in the center.

Traffic flow will be toward the outside of the building with classrooms in the center.

Classrooms are located in the center of the building with hallways on either side, allowing more flow between classes, crucial given the numbers of students expected to utilize the building each day. There are many informal learning spaces as well, providing opportunities for both students and faculty to collaborate, study and teach in a more relaxed setting, and green room areas for faculty to prepare before class, or spend time after class talking to students without interfering with the next class arriving.

The design of these spaces is so cutting-edge it’s inspired a long-term partnership between Boora and Oregon State that involves a research project with the College of Education, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Technology Across the Curriculum, which will study the effects of alternative large-scale classroom configurations on student learning outcomes and engagement.

“This is state of the art in every sense,” Brooks said. “While people are the centerpiece of the learning experience, the new spaces will allow faculty and students to use technology to further enhance their learning experience.”

Initial research will first create a baseline of student outcomes and engagements by studying large-scale classrooms in existing OSU facilities in which instructors are attempting to use active learning techniques.  Data will then be gathered on the same courses/instructors in the Learning Innovation Center’s new classrooms. Learning outcomes and behaviors studied will include test scores, attendance, participation, and engagement, and comparative analysis will continue after the building is opened between new and existing classrooms.

More than 2,500 students have signed up to participate in the study.  Clicker technology is used to track student attendance and seating location in the room. The data collected and analyzed will inform future classrooms and teaching methods both on the campus and for other higher education institutions.

Informal spaces will facilitate learning around the building.

Informal spaces will facilitate learning around the building.

The University Honors College has relocated to LInC and Dean Toni Doolen said she is thrilled to have four smaller classrooms dedicated to the college, which limits class sizes to 25 students or less for lower division undergraduates and 12-15 for upper division undergraduates. She said the new classrooms will be perfect for accommodating the unique teaching styles and learning approaches of Honors College courses.

“Our faculty members use many different strategies to create an interactive classroom,” Doolen said. “Our students are fully engaged in the learning and due to the high level of interaction between students and faculty, are also engaged in learning from each other.”

Doolen also hopes that having the University Honors College located in a heavily trafficked student building will raise the visibility of the college. This fall, nearly 1,200 OSU students will be enrolled in the rapidly growing college. Doolen pointed out that in total over the 20-year history of the college there are only 1,200 alumni total.

“Being in the new space really highlights the importance of the Honors College and its students to all of campus,” Doolen said. “And our faculty like to pioneer curriculum and learning technology in their honors courses, which makes this new space a perfect fit for us.”

LInC will be the new home for the Information Services division of Academic Technology comprised of Classroom Technology Services, Media Services and Technology Across the Curriculum; the Center for Teaching and Learning; and the University Honors College offices and conference rooms.

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