August 26, 2016

New Mell Classroom Building to Feature Active Learning Approach


Students, alumni, and friends returning to Auburn University’s campus this fall will see steel girders rising toward the sky as the new Mell Classroom Building and Ralph Brown Draughon library renovation takes shape. Slated for completion in fall 2017, the complex is a 69,000-square-foot structure adjacent to the existing Ralph Brown Draughon Library (and includes renovations within the library).

Mell Classroom Building rendering
Mell Classroom Building rendering, courtesy of William Blackstock and Associates and tvdesign

The building will serve students across academic majors and programs with classrooms designed to reinforce the concept that the long-term learning takes place when students are adequately prepared for and challenged by a task—engaged active student learning (EASL).

EASL classrooms allow students to step outside their regular learning space and apply knowledge in an interactive way. Students view lectures or read materials online and then attend an incubator-style session ready for discussion, presentation, or small group problem solving. Glass boards and monitor displays are mounted on the walls. Students at each station can connect mobile computing devices to projectors and share their work and ideas with peers across the room. Instructors can tap into the screens around the room and share feedback in real time.

Collaborating—even debating—with fellow students in the classroom aids the learning process because it leads to retention. Experts say that even a two-minute break from a lecture to discuss how to read a graph will positively impact a student’s ability to recall the information at a later date. Auburn’s push to integrate active learning opportunities will prepare students for a brighter career after graduation.

EASL classroom
EASL classrooms allow students to collaborate in small groups, which requires students to participate actively in the learning process.

Essential to that push is creating the physical spaces for those opportunities. According to Diane Boyd, director of Auburn University’s Biggio Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, “Each classroom in the Mell Classroom Building will provide collaborative team space where students can solve real-world problems in which they apply course content, all with the expert real-time feedback of their instructors. We all have the ability to improve if we focus our efforts and seek feedback on the learning process at hand.”

Auburn University first began exploring the possibility of EASL classrooms in 2012, under the guidance of Information Technology Manager Wiebke Kuhn and a team of faculty members, students, learning specialists, space design experts, and IT specialists. The outcomes from this style of active learning classrooms were so successful the university decided the Mell Classroom Building would continue the trend toward collaborative, engaged, active learning.

Construction on the building began last December. Mell will connect with the library on the third and fourth floors via pedestrian bridges and include 40 new and renovated group study areas, 27 active learning classrooms, two lecture halls, and a food venue. When it opens, the building will be one of the single largest investments in engaged active student learning in the southeast.

“As an institution, we recognize that student success depends heavily on innovative learning environments that encourage scholarship, enrichment, and community,” said Timothy Boosinger, Auburn University’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The total $35 million for the project includes $25 million from university funds. An additional $10 million is needed in charitable funding to ensure the completion of the facility. Donate today and help bring this new technology to Auburn students.

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