Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 22, 2017

New Classroom for CETL in Funderburg Promotes Active Learning 

Cleopatra Castanias 


Students are often encouraged to read “actively,” by annotating their text; now faculty will be able to help them “learn actively,” with the addition of the new Walker Active Learning Classroom (WALC).

This new classroom is being built on the third floor of Funderburg Library, and results from the combined efforts of the Library and the Center for Effective Teaching & Learning (CETL). It is funded through a bequest from Wilmer and Helen Walker.

The purpose of the WALC is to further professional development opportunities for faculty and staff and to create a space where faculty can explore active learning methods. In an active learning classroom, students are actively involved, and not just passively receiving information. “When students are more active in the learning process, they engage with the content on a deeper level and are better able to synthesize and analyze content as opposed to simply memorizing it,” said Dr. Michelle Calka, the director of CETL.

The all-in-one classroom will be a flexible space to support active-learning strategies of professors in varying disciplines along with professional development activities. There will be seating for up to 28 individuals. It will be furnished with mobile desks and chairs (with underseat storage) that can be easily configured in a variety of group sizes or traditional rows.

Movable furnishings will make it possible to rearrange a space quickly for a traditional lecture, student breakout sessions, large or small group discussions, peer-to-peer instruction, one-on-one faculty and peer discussions, as well as after-hours individual and group-study use.

Some other features that will be included into the WALC are seven mobile dry-erase boards, a whiteboard wall, dual Epson BrightlinkPro Interactive Projectors/Whiteboards, video conferencing capabilities with ceiling microphones/speakers, accessible power isles for devices, dimmable lighting and updated Wi-Fi access. All in all, the WALC will be an extremely accommodating space that can be shifted to suit various learning needs and teachings, which encapsulates both CETL’s and Funderburg Library’s vision for a flexible space for flexible learning.

At the prospect of classes being held in the Walker Active Learning Classroom, Calka disclosed how the hope is “to gain more insight about what works in active learning classroom design, and use those insights to inform future decisions about classrooms on campus,” imparting how the new space will serve as a valuable prototype for future classrooms at Manchester.

Calka has another hope as well—that “this space encourages faculty to experiment with new teaching techniques, whether for one class session or a full semester.” Overall, this new classroom will be and is an operational part of CETL’s goal to support active learning and inspire effective teaching.

While the WALC may be reserved for single classes and professional development, use of the classroom will not be restricted to only faculty and staff after completion. Whenever it is not in use, the WALC will act as a student study zone. In the spring, three courses that use active learning methods will be using the WALC for regular classes; other classes may reserve the WALC for one-time usage, and it will remain a student study zone whenever it is not in use. "Students will also get good use of space when classes and workshops are not being held there; the whiteboards and flexibility of the furniture will make it ideal for group work sessions,” Calka said.

The WALC’s dedication day is Oct. 20 and it is expected to be completed by the end of October.

Funderburg Library provides a variety of features that benefit students and faculty. It provides materials to serve MU’s curricula, bibliographic and interlibrary loan support for research, and instruction in the use of information sources. The comfortable lounges that are interspersed throughout the library for relaxed reading are balanced out by special areas for computers, audio and video equipment, group conferences, and after-hours study.  Its Teaching Resource Center contains thousands of textbooks and curricular materials for education majors. There’s even an online catalog that lists the library's holdings, as well as those of other private colleges and universities in Indiana; in addition to the interlibrary loan service that locates and delivers materials from potentially thousands of libraries. WALC adds to this list.