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An Active Learning Complex: Can Space Be Used To Foster Student Interaction?

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.85.1 - 5.85.8



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Paper Authors

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S. S. Venkata

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Doug Jacobson

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2632

An Active Learning Complex: Can space be used to foster student interaction?

Doug Jacobson, S. S. Venkata Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Iowa State University


Over the last ten years the engineering academic community has experienced increased pressure to modify educational practices so their students would be better able to meet the challenges of engineering in the future. A special emphasis has been placed on the students’ development of teamwork skills, multidisciplinary work, and development of life-long learning skills as characterized by independent, self-directed efforts in their own learning. This educational focus has an obvious pedagogical impact on engineering faculty members, but this focus also raises questions concerning student issues. Specifically, to teach students these skills, the students need a place to practice them. So, the question raised is what impact does the students’ environment have on the educational process and achievement of student learning outcomes? The Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECpE) department at Iowa State University created a drastically different area for student learning, a student-centered learning space, to facilitate student learning. The design team consisted of faculty, staff, students and an architect.

I. Introduction

Iowa State University along with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has adopted the active learning paradigm 1,2,3 by working to change the way faculty teach and students learn. It became evident to some faculty that not only the way the material is delivered has to change, but the environment in which the students work has to change to meet the new demands of teamwork and group interaction. While Iowa State has made some changes in the standard classroom to help facilitate cooperative learning, the students did not have places to work together outside the classroom setting. In the fall of 1997 several faculty members and administrators in the EcpE department started talking about developing a space for students. This led to the formation of a small team of faculty, staff, and students who were charged with development of the concept for the Active Learning Complex (ALC).

One strong piece of evidence that the students wanted space for teaming was the usage of the space that was earmarked for the complex. This space was a large room that the department made available to students. The department placed about 20 computers in the space on large tables. What we soon observed is that a majority of the activity in this space was students working in groups at the tables with the computers largely being ignored. This reinforced the concept that if we provided space for teaming the students would use it to work together.

This paper describes the concept, design, construction, implementation and usage of the space.

Venkata, S. S., & Jacobson, D. (2000, June), An Active Learning Complex: Can Space Be Used To Foster Student Interaction? Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8156

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