RMC installs new active learning classroom
January 28, 2019
In January, Rocky Mountain College welcomed students to MK-125, a brand-new active learning classroom in Morledge-Kimball Hall. The classroom, funded by a generous grant from the Sunderland Foundation, supports the College’s broader commitment to transformational learning.
“With our low student-to-faculty ratio, active learning is built-in at Rocky: Our professors already engage with students one-on-one,” said Dr. Holly Basta, assistant professor of biology, who is leading a faculty development initiative in active learning. “The new classroom gives us exciting tools to build on this strength.”
“MK-125 is designed to be student-centric,” said Dr. Basta. “In traditional classrooms, it’s physically difficult to do anything but face forward and listen to the professor. In this new, active learning classroom, students face each other and work together.”
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.
The RMC IT department worked with AVI Systems through the recent holiday break to prepare the technology-enhanced classroom for the 2019 spring term. The new classroom features four conference tables, or learning stations, with seating at each for up to nine students. Each station includes a 55” flat screen monitor, connections for student laptops, and document cameras to enable projections from any device to any display, including the station monitors and large projection screen at the front of the classroom. The room easily adapts to the current BYOD (bring your own device) culture and gives students a better source for unified communication and collaboration.
“Studies have shown that while active learning benefits all students, it is particularly impactful for those who are disadvantaged,” said Dr. Basta. “This new classroom helps level the playing field. When you start engaging in groups and allowing students to speak and lead the lecture, they have skin in the game. And, importantly, the professors have feedback on how students are performing. They can address misconceptions and more accurately judge comprehension levels across the entire class. As a professor, if you stand there lecturing the entire time, you don’t know who’s falling behind.”
Currently, sociology and English are being taught in the new classroom as part of a soft launch. The renovated classroom is expected to provide an active learning setting for at least 350 students during the 2019-2020 academic year.
The Sunderland Foundation was established in 1945 by Lester T. Sunderland, who served as President of the Ash Grove Cement Company for 33 years as a highly respected leader in the cement industry. In 2017, the Foundation awarded more than $10 million to over 45 educational organizations. Grantees included community colleges, private colleges, and public universities.