What is it?
A swivel-seat lecture theatre, designed to foster active and collaborative learning, which can be used for traditional lectures, interactive lectures and group work.
The development forms part of a larger strategic plan to convert existing rooms into new types of teaching space, intended to promote collaboration, dialogue and a different, active approach to teaching and learning.
The interactive lecture theatre was designed to enhance student engagement and move beyond the traditional transmissive lecture theatre.
City encourages active learning and is using the space to develop new and innovative pedagogic practices, including peer to peer, active learning and the flipped classroom, so that students have received prepared information and tasks for study before the lecture which enables the face-to-face time to be used for more interactively.
The layout of the space and the facilities available allow tutors to design learning experiences that involve communication, social interaction, group work and problem solving with or without the use of technology.
The use of lecture capture technology means that students do not have to make extensive notes during the lecture itself and are free to participate more actively in the lecture by asking more questions or thinking more deeply about the subject matter.
City’s professional services departments work in partnership to enhance a range of learning spaces. Under the Designing Active Learning Initiative (DALI) all City’s centrally timetabled spaces are being enhanced with new educational technology.
Members of learning enhancement and development, property and facilities and information technology work together to improve learning spaces across the City, University of London’s campuses.
The collaborative approach continues beyond individual refurbishment projects by encouraging staff to write and share case studies about how they are enhancing their learning and teaching practice using the new spaces.
Learning Enhancement and Development (LEaD) in collaboration with the properties and facilities department (PAF) and academic schools.
City, University of London has taken sound pedagogic principles as the basis for the design of physical learning space. City undertook considerable research into the experiences of others, and ran pilot projects in its own institution, prior to undertaking major developments.
City, University of London had already changed a number of smaller learning spaces to make them more flexible. By using movable furniture and other equipment they were able to facilitate active learning, peer to peer and group interactive practice, a variety of activities and circulation of academic staff within the learning space, to enhance student engagement.
The challenge was how to bring these qualities to the lecture theatre and to use furniture, technology and equipment to support interactivity, collaboration, flexibility and create a sense of intimacy with the lecturer and other students.
They have created a lecture theatre that can be used for traditional lectures, interactive lectures and group work. The room is a 'raked' (sloping) lecture theatre with a combination of fixed and swivel seating laid out in a horseshoe format.
There are two rows of seats on each level. One row is fixed and the other contains seats which swivel. The swivel seats can comfortably turn 360 degrees and are spaced to ensure that seats and students don’t bump into each other as they turn. Students can quickly and easily face the front in traditional rows or turn to work with the students behind them.
The rows are set out in a horseshoe design so that even students at the periphery feel part of the group.
The room is designed to facilitate the use of a range of other technologies including lecture capture, student response systems and visualisation tools.
The space incorporates breakout areas and writable glass walls that can be used to support group activity.
Factors key to the success of the physical space include:
- Seating that can easily enable group work without the need to rearrange furniture
- Table space that is sufficient to accommodate groups of students with laptops and paper materials
- Display mechanisms to allow the creation and capture of information as well as presentation of pre-prepared material
- Clear lines of sight – to projected content, lecturer, fellow student and the whiteboard
- Lighting, acoustic and heating levels that can be controlled to ensure comfort
- Ease of use of the technology eg automatic lecture recording
- Dedicated, professional support for tutors in both the use of technology and pedagogic practice
- Evaluation of the technologies used and sharing good practice through case studies
The range of technologies available means that lecturers in all disciplines can enhance their pedagogic practice by making their teaching sessions more interactive and thought-provoking.
Lecture capture technology is available in the space, lectures can be recorded and uploaded to the Moodle virtual learning environment. Students simply need to click on a link in Moodle to access the recordings on any device including a computer, tablet or mobile phone.
Lecture capture also gives students extra learning materials by allowing them to go back and review content from the lectures in their own time, and at their own pace. It is particularly useful for students who study in a foreign language, or students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Additionally, lecture capture is beneficial to all students for revision ahead of exams and assignments.
The space also permits group activities without the use of technology making use of the breakout spaces and writable glass walls.
Technologies in use
The following furnishings and technologies are in use:
- Fixed and swivel seating to enable group work and collaboration
- Power sockets for 50% of the seats (situated under tables)
- Addition of ceiling microphones for lecture capture, to create a “teaching zone” allowing the academic to move around the front of the space and facilitate greater engagement with students
- Dual projection screens
- Lecture capture technology (Echo 360)
- Writable glass walls
- An audio visual pod from which the lecturer can control the following technologies:
- Digital and analog input cables at the pod for additional source inputs
- Touch-screen control panel, which controlling all functions of the educational technology (Crestron)
- Adobe Connect to support web conferencing for remote participants and online collaboration
- Student response systems (Poll Everywhere)
Top five ideas for using learning technologies
This lecture theatre is designed to aid peer to peer and group learning and increase student engagement:
- Use the visualiser to enable your whole class to see demonstrations eg magnify the structure of tiny microchips or demonstrate wave formation in a sealed vessel holding water
- Use the snowball technique – ask the students to form pairs and work on a task or solve a problem, using online, library and other available resources. Then have the students “turn and learn” by creating a four person and larger groups using the swivel seating.
- Use student response systems to both engage students and check their understanding of key concepts and topics
- Use the “debating” technique - ask the students to turn and form groups of four or six, and take opposite sides of a debate. Give the student’s time to develop their arguments and “debate” a key topic between their groups
- Use the student response system in anonymised mode, to allow students to ask questions they may think “silly” or something they feel they should already know. This is a great way to ensure quieter members of the class are also engaged with the lecture
Usage of recorded lectures is highest ahead of exams and end-of-year assessments. This suggests that students are using the material as intended and not as a substitute for attending lectures. City is finding that access to lecture captured sessions is growing demand from our student community.
City has found through initial evaluation activities with staff and students, that the shift to student centred, active learning and problem based teaching activities can have positive outcomes for learning outcomes and student engagement.
The DALI project is in the process of further evaluation activities to assess the impact that redeveloped learning spaces are having on enabling academics to increase their use of active learning and teaching practice.
Swivel seating takes up a lot more space than fixed seating. A combination of the two is usually the most effective way to facilitate group working whilst maximising the use of space.
For more on each of the topics mentioned in this case study see the UK Higher Education Learning Space Toolkit.