Published 06/28/16

Innovative academic facilities, creative faculty are models for peer institutions

From Bello 102 and the Ideation Lab to the Academic Innovation Center, Bryant's investment in state-of-the art academic facilities has enhanced active learning so well that other colleges and universities are taking note.

Members of Bryant’s Academic Affairs and Information Services teams have been featured presenters at national conferences focusing on some of the most important topics in education – including active teaching, experiential learning, and the state-of-the-art technology that supports them. Most recently, Glenn M. Sulmasy, J.D., L.L.M, Provost and Chief Academic Officer, was a delegate to the New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum June 20-21, where he took part in collaborative, peer-to-peer roundtables for select presidents, provosts and chancellors.

The newest classrooms "were proposed and championed by faculty. The result is that they have become some of the most highly requested spaces to teach in.”

“What we are doing is a model for other higher education institutions,” says David Gannon, Director of Campus Technology Services. Gannon, along with Senior Media Services Analyst Dan Greene, presented “Engaging and Supporting Stakeholders in the Design and Implementation of Active Learning Spaces” at the annual UBTech Conference in early June.

Gannon told the audience, which included representatives from such institutions as Georgetown University, Indiana University, Northwestern University, and University of Michigan, that “flexible classrooms which can be utilized by multiple disciplines” were a major focus when Bryant built the Ideation Lab and Bello 102. “These classrooms were proposed and championed by faculty,” he said. “The result is that they have become some of the most highly requested spaces to teach in.”

The Ideation Lab, which opened in 2012, fosters collaboration among students and educators. Modeled after similar workspaces in Google headquarters, its walls of glass and whiteboard invite students to write on every square inch of space. Movable tables and chairs encourage collaboration, team projects, and interactive work. Through technology and projection screens, faculty members are able to teach from the center of the room to better foster discussion and collaboration.

Bello 102 is a video conference room with collaborative workstations, each with a 40-inch monitor to facilitate group work. Ninety-inch screens at the front of the room enable side-by-side comparisons of group projects and afford faculty the opportunity to seamlessly integrate technology into their lessons.

Bryant’s Academic Innovation Center, the groundbreaking resource for experiential learning that opens this fall, expands upon on the successes gleaned from the Ideation Lab and Bello 102. Within its 48,000 square feet are breakout spaces that inspire design thinking and creative problem solving; tiered classrooms that encourage debate and build critical thinking and communication skills; flat classrooms that support flexible teaching styles and encourage collaboration; and the Innovation Forum, a space where furnishings and whiteboards can be reconfigured to support various group learning activities.

Each of the classrooms in the AIC uses wireless technology that can be operated by remote control from the A/V office or by an iPad.

The presentations continue this fall at the annual EDUCAUSE conference in Anaheim, CA. There, Bryant educational technology experts will co-present with McGill University, Suffolk University, Virginia Tech University, and Yale University at a session exploring the process of developing active teaching and learning classrooms and supporting project-based or flipped methodologies of teaching and learning.