University of Utrecht – Active Learning classroom
The active learing classroom is a collaborative teaching space, where the teacher operates from the centre of the room and eight groups of six students have access to a sit-stand table, screen and whiteboard. The teacher has control over what is shown on each screen: the teacher's content, that of his/her own group, or that of another group.
The realisation of this Active Learning Classroom in (2019) was inspired by the concept and research of the University of Minnesota (Baeplar et al., 2016).
Organisation and management
This teaching space was created bottom-up on the initiative of a teacher who was using the Teaching & Learning Lab at the University. With this experiment, he demonstrated the added value of an Active learning classroom for education. The Teaching & Learning Lab is a flexible experimental garden where teachers can try out and test new teaching concepts. If a concept is successful, it will be given a permanent place at the university.
The management of all teaching rooms is centralised. The scheduling of halls is divided into regions. A collaboration of three faculties has the first right to book this innovative teaching space. After a set exchange date, the room is available to all faculties. At the moment, it is being explored to make it possible for lecturers of all faculties to directly schedule this type of innovative teaching room.
A gatekeeper has been set up for the room. This means that the education room is not included in the standard timetable for regular education activities, but that education is only timetabled in it after approval of the gatekeeper. This person also acts as an ambassador and has an intake interview with lecturers before they can use the room. This ensures that teachers who teach in this room have made a conscious decision to do so and know what to expect.
With internal communication, they focused on informing and involving colleagues through workshops and presentations, which were organised twice a month. In the initial period, they actively promoted the organisation of meetings and conferences in the teaching room. A short introduction was then given in the room to start the meeting. Even though these sessions were not always education-related, they contributed greatly to publicising this education space. The gatekeeper/ambassador plays a key role in giving these presentations.
As the number of innovative teaching spaces at Utrecht University is steadily increasing, a multidisciplinary operational team is being set up specifically for these innovative teaching spaces. This team combines technical and didactic support, as well as the evaluation and ambassadorial functions. If it is decided that timetabling will also take place centrally, the gatekeeper function and a scheduling agent will be added. This is being done because experience has shown that innovative classrooms need more support than regular classrooms and that it is more important that technical and educational expertise work together. This set-up also contributes to a faster and better iterative improvement process for the design of the rooms. Points for improvement from evaluations can be implemented immediately.
This teaching space is successful in reaching teachers who want to teach in it. This is partly because an ambassador has invested a lot of energy in personally introducing lecturers to this teaching space. Teachers have had a personal intake before using the room, which ensures that they know technically how the facilities work and have discussed didactically the planned educational activities.
As the number of innovative teaching rooms at Utrecht University increases, the support organisation for these rooms is being professionalised. There is as yet little experience with this new way of working, but the idea is that one multidisciplinary support team will become the point of contact for all innovative teaching rooms available to the entire university. This team will be able to offer integral support to lecturers directly, and the university will be able to learn and develop more quickly at institutional level as a result.