NEW ORLEANS, July 30 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Steelcase Inc. (NYSE: SCS), a global office environments manufacturer, today introduced its LearnLab Environments at the National Association of College and University Business Officials annual meeting. This interpretation of the classroom of the future seeks to increase learning as a way to attract and retain students and faculty.
The demands placed on the college classroom have grown. No longer are classrooms merely used as lecture halls. In fact, on average, students are spending 72.3 percent of class time involved in class discussions and 23.4 percent engaged in group projects. Higher education students are also now expecting that learning environments will provide and support the technology they've grown accustomed to in the rest of their daily lives. And even though universities report that increased interaction between professors and students outside of classes significantly reduces dropout rates, that students learn better when they can discuss the subject matter of their courses with their peers, and that collaborative instructional methods in classes are increasing, the classroom environment hasn't significantly changed in the last 50 years to promote those activities.
Additionally, higher education administrators are facing a competitive landscape in a time of budget cuts, competing for the best and brightest students and faculty.
"In response to the challenges today's educators are facing, we sought to design a learning environment to support multiple learning styles, increase the students' retention, break down the hierarchy between instructor and student, and keep students engaged as they segue through the transitions between lecture, group work and individual presentations," said Elise Valoe, workspace futures researcher for Steelcase Inc. "We believed that ultimately that would lead to increased learning."
She added, "It was important to us to validate the hypothesis we developed, so we created a prototype environment and engaged in a research project with Grand Valley State University."
Two different classes met twice a week for 15 weeks, resulting in 90 hours of video footage and 250 still photos, which was synthesized over an eight- week period and resulted in a set of design elements that now comprise the LearnLab environment.
First, the environment has a unique geometry. Rather than rows of seats facing the lectern, screen, and white or chalk boards, students group around four large tables. With mobile furniture, students can easily swivel between lecture and group work, nearly eliminating the time and distraction of these transitions, preserving cognitive flow and enabling students to stay engaged.
Second, the environment is supported by multiple stages. There is no front of the room in the LearnLab, and even more important, there is no back row. Every seat is essentially the best seat in the room. More traditional classrooms create a barrier between the instructor and the students. In order for the instructor to engage with the class on a more personal level they must walk down rows. The LearnLab stages break down the traditional classroom hierarchical structures as both student and instructor have equal access to digital display, white boards and places to quickly present ideas or questions.
Third, a variety of learning styles are engaged through the way in which content can be explored and made explicit. Since learning is supported by visual display of information and from the ability to interact and engage in the learning process, simplifying these activities is critical. The four corners of the room each possess technology-rich white boards for displaying and capturing information. This enables students to physically reference and create content during collaboration. These zones and the displays they possess also enable learning through any of the learning styles students might utilize.
Steelcase is continuing to test its environmental hypothesis at other universities across North America and has a patent pending for the applications of the LearnLab. PolyVision, a Steelcase company that enhances the way people learn, work, and communicate visually through a broad portfolio of visual communication products, has contributed a variety of digital communication products to the LearnLab Environments.
About Steelcase Inc.
Steelcase, the global leader in the office furniture industry, helps people have a better work experience by providing products, services and insights into the ways people work. The company designs and manufactures architecture, furniture and technology products. Founded in 1912 and headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steelcase (NYSE: SCS) serves customers through approximately 13,000 employees and dealers at over 550 locations worldwide. Fiscal 2007 revenue was $3.1 billion. Learn more at http://www.steelcase.com.
SOURCE Steelcase, Inc.
Jeanine Holquist of Steelcase, Inc.
Web site: http://www.steelcase.com