Facility Focus

University of Louisiana Monroe Installs Active Learning Classroom

High-tech environment is first of its kind in the state.

The University of Louisiana Monroe has partnered with Trox, an education technology solutions company, to install a state-of-the-art active learning classroom for its College of Pharmacy. The classroom is the first of its kind in the state, and it provides opportunities for more active participation, interaction and collaboration among teachers and students.

University of Louisiana Monroe Active Learning Classroom

The classroom seats up to 84 students at 14 collaboration tables, each outfitted with integrated collaboration and AV technology. Each table has a Wolfvision vSolution Matrix Multi-Screen that lets students and professors wirelessly share notes, presentations, activities and other documents from any smartphone, laptop or tablet. The collaboration tables have displays, microphones and a Cynap Core wireless presentation system. The classroom itself is also set up with a camera to allow remote students to seamlessly follow along.

The idea started when College of Pharmacy Dean H. Glenn Anderson Jr. heard about the installation of an active learning classroom at his former place of employment, Marshall University. He discussed a similar installation with Marcia Wells, the College of Pharmacy Technology Manager, and Greg Andrews, the AV Classroom Coordinator, and they were immediately on board.

“They’ve kinda been on the forefront of technology,” said Andrews, noting that the College of Pharmacy was the first at the university to start using distance-learning technology. “So from my perspective, it wasn’t a hard decision to make for pharmacy to do that, as well—to be the ringleader for that.”

For installation, they turned to Trox. This project isn’t the first partnership between Trox and the university. Trox has supplied the campus with AV solutions and other educational technologies for more than 20 years—including converting the unused library into a new technology center with a biology lab, smart classrooms and more.

University of Louisiana Monroe Active Learning Classroom

“I’ve been working with ULM probably since 2002,” said Scott Albarado, Account Executive for Trox. “It’s been a good long-term relationship. And so far, they keep coming back to us for help, so we must be doing a good job.”

Because this was the first active learning classroom in the state, it took some time to plan out the logistics of how to make it work. Albarado said the most complicated part was finding a way to simplify the setup and make it easy to use. “What was where, what display shows on the teacher’s station to all the student stations, and vice versa…we made it really easy to do exactly what they wanted,” he said. “And it took us a while to talk through it and figure out exactly what they wanted, how it would look, but it all came together in the end.”

After some prep work in the room involving coredrilling floors for power and data cables, the installation itself only took about 10 days, Andrews said.

Because of social distancing practices related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells said that they haven’t yet been able to use the room to its full capacity. Right now, it’s mainly being used by smaller elective classes. “But pretty much some aspect of every one of our pharmacy courses would be using that room,” she said.

As an example, many of the smaller classes in the College of Pharmacy are disease-specific. Instructors will give students a case and have them discuss it in groups. Students can connect their personal laptops via AirPlay or screen mirroring to the display at each table for group work. Once the instructor calls time or reconvenes the entire class, students can share the work they’ve done with the display at any other table, the teacher’s main display or both.

“It’s a hodgepodge of … ‘if you can think it, we can show it’-type room. There’s no device that can’t connect, there’s nothing we can’t show on any table at any given time,” Andrews said.

University of Louisiana Monroe Active Learning Classroom

Andrews also noted that he’s seen minimal issues integrating the technology and introducing it to faculty and students. He called it a “small learning curve,” the kind of process where “you do it once, and you’ve got it figured out.”

The active learning classroom installation ties into the dean’s broader initiative for a team-based learning environment, Wells said. The pharmacy program relies heavily on active class participation, collaboration and group learning, and this pedagogy was another major driving factor in the decision to pursue the installation.

“Student-centered, technology-rich classrooms are the future of higher education,” Andrews said. “The University of Louisiana’s first active learning classroom will give students more exposure to real-world experiences. Trox’s expertise in the understanding of how to use technology to improve learning environments helped us create a space that fosters better communication and collaboration between teachers and their students—whether they are remote, in the classroom or a blend of both.”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].