Indiana University invests in 'active learning classrooms' for the future


Indiana University is expanding its Mosaic Active Learning Initiative, a sweeping classroom redesign, to its five regional campuses, according to campus officials.

IU announced that it has expanded the initiative, which fosters collaborative “active” learning, to IU East, IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend, and IU Southeast. All of the classrooms look different as a result of the project, and can vary widely. Some simply have extra whiteboards, while others are outfitted with top wireless solutions.

The goal, university officials say, is to ensure that students are not stuck in rows of seats that are bolted to the ground, facing professors lecturing at the front of the room. Rather, the furniture has to be moveable, and students are encouraged to get up and walk around as they work.

“This is a very different way of teaching,” Stacy Morrone, associate vice president for Learning Technologies at IU, said in an interview.

“At other universities, generally there’s one design for an active learning classroom,” she continued. “Because we are so big and have so many different kinds of classrooms, that wasn’t practical and we didn’t want to do that. Instead, we viewed it more as a mosaic of different kinds of classrooms.”

Mosaic launched on the Bloomington campus, the university’s flagship institution with more than 48,000 students, in fall 2015. One of the school’s most ambitious projects involved a former swimming pool. Now an active learning classroom, the space is equipped with a massive video wall with 16 panels that can show different images simultaneously.

“Students can use their own devices, and whatever they are working on can be projected on the main screen,” said Morrone. “The video wall allow faculty to see all 16 panels in a gallery view. It’s like a snapshot where she can see students at table six are having trouble.”

Morrone’s team wired the room through the tables with cable, and connected it back to the instructor’s console. Courses ranging from “Phonetics of American Speech” and “Introduction to Games,” to “Fundamentals of Nursing” will be using that classroom in the next year.

Now, the university has started deploying Mersive Solstice, a wireless display solution, with at least one Solstice pod in about 90 classrooms. About 10 of those classrooms feature multiple pods.

“We also have adopted Solstice as the mechanism for students to share content within their groups and the class as a whole in the Mosaic classrooms, instead of running wiring to all the displays,” said Morrone. “This has brought the cost and complexity down considerably, and we feel it makes the system more reliable.”

The institution is also upgrading analog-digital classroom technology, and will install Solstice devices in about 80 classrooms per year at IU Bloomington over the next three years. The same will follow for the regional campuses.

But while the classrooms are rapidly changing, Morrone noted that faculty also have to rethink the way they’re designing their courses.

“We knew that you can’t completely transform a classroom and then say to faculty, ‘Here’s your new classroom, call us if you need help,'” she said. “We knew we needed to work with faculty to support a program that would rethink their teaching practices.”

In order to carry this out, the school established the Mosaic Faculty Fellows program, a year of intensive study that brings together faculty members to share best practices, research their own fields of instruction, and brainstorm new teaching strategies. There are currently 50 Mosaic Faculty Fellows across all the campuses, and Morrone said about 10 to 15 new fellows will be added each year.

“We provide a full set of services to make sure the faculty is prepared to teach in these active learning classrooms,” Morrone said.

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