RMC’s computer science program awarded grant to create two new active learning classrooms

Billings, Mont., July 7, 2020 – Rocky Mountain College’s Computer Science Program has received a Charles M. Bair Family Trust grant to transform two Technology Hall classrooms into active learning spaces.

Active learning is characterized by student engagement, participation, and collaboration. Rather than passively absorbing course content, students actively demonstrate, analyze, and apply course knowledge and disciplinary methods in the classroom. An increasing body of evidence indicates that active learning methods improve critical thinking skills, increase the retention and transfer of new information, increase student motivation, and improve interpersonal skills. In active learning classrooms, students work and learn together – mentoring one another, holding each other accountable, and communicating about the challenges of the course content.

“Research consistently shows that when students collaborate and actively engage in learning, as opposed to lecture-only teaching, the students’ mastery of the subject matter improves at an exponential rate,” said Instructor of Computer Science, Andrew Niemantsverdriet. “When computer science instructors encounter roadblocks and problem-solve in real time, students gain practical knowledge and develop problem-solving skills.”

The College's first active learning classroom was established in Morledge-Kimball Hall in 2018 and is used primarily by math and English students (learn more about MK-125). Adding these additional active learning spaces further supports the College’s broader commitment to transformational learning. 

Charles M. Bair Family Trust grant funds will be used to purchase and install new electronic equipment including laser projectors, progressive screens, and connectivity podiums. One active learning classroom will be used for professor/student learning and student project presentations, and the other space will house a computer science active learning lab for student use. Equipped with state-of-the-art technology, this student-engaged learning approach will provide RMC’s Computer Science program a competitive edge.

“We’re excited about our newly upgraded active learning classrooms,” said Niemantsverdriet. “The ability for our students to have greater interaction in the classroom and a more ‘hands on’ approach to their learning is a huge win for both students and faculty.”

Associate Professor of Computer Science, Dr. Patrick O’Leary, from the company Kitware, will join RMC’s Computer Science Faculty this fall. The active learning classrooms will be ready for computer science student use for the fall, 2020 semester. RMC’s Computer Science Program currently serves 30 students, with plans to expand to 40 students.

Below are photos of RMC's first active learning classroom MK-125, which was completed in January 2019.

RMC Active Learning Classroom

Active Learning Classroom