Center for Educational Innovation

Academic Affairs and Provost

UMN Research on ALC

Learning Spaces Research in OIT

Since August 2007, the research and evaluation team in the University of Minnesota’s Office of Information Technology has been engaged in an ongoing research project centered on new, technology-enhanced learning spaces called Active Learning Classrooms (ALCs). This project seeks to determine to what extent new learning spaces shape teaching and learning practices, student and instructor perceptions, and student learning outcomes.

Beginning in September 2009, OIT has collaborated with Stanford University to conduct inter-institutional research on new learning spaces. Researchers at the two universities have shared methodologies, data collection instruments, and findings.

Findings: University of Minnesota

  1. Learning outcomes: In one biology class, a section was taught in an ALC while another section was taught in a traditional classroom. Students in the new learning space had significantly lower ACT scores than students in the traditional setting, predicting that the course grades they could expect to earn would be lower as well. However, students in the ALC outperformed expectations, earning the same grades as students in the traditional classroom, suggesting strongly that features of the room contributed significantly to their learning. Students’ answers to free-response survey questions confirmed this result by describing ways in which the ALC helped them in their learning tasks.
  2. Metro vs rural students: Students from metro Minnesota counties rated new learning spaces significantly higher in terms of engagement, enrichment, flexibility, effectiveness, and fit than students from rural counties.
  3. Upper- vs lower-division students: Upper-division undergraduate students (juniors and seniors) rated new learning spaces significantly lower on all the aforementioned dimensions than their lower-division colleagues (freshmen and sophomores).
  4. Instructor behavior: Data gathered using a classroom observation protocol in two sections of a biology class indicated that despite the professor’s explicit attempt to conduct the same learning activities in both sections, in fact he behaved quite differently in the different classrooms, lecturing significantly more in the traditional room and conducting discussion significantly more in the ALC.

Findings: Stanford University

  1. Use of technology: Faculty teaching in new learning environments use technology-enhanced learning activities, particularly activities involving internet-based resources, significantly more frequently than faculty teaching in traditional spaces.
  2. Rating of new learning spaces: Faculty teaching in new learning environments rated those spaces significantly higher in terms of engagement, enrichment, flexibility, effectiveness, and fit than faculty teaching in traditional spaces. They also rated the new learning environments higher on all these dimensions than students taking a class in the new spaces.

Find links to articles and project reports at http://www.classroom.umn.edu/projects/alc.html​

What Students Say

It's been interesting. I have 3 classes in there and each one uses the room in a different way. The one thing about this room that I noticed most is that it seems to break down the traditional learning environment. That is, the professor and the students almost equally share authority especially with regard to digital environments.

I think the classroom is a different approach that appeals to a wider variety of learning styles than a standard lecture does.

I really like the technology and the availability of the professors for asking questions. You can be face to face during class and you don't have to yell across a lecture hall. The technology allows us to easily get information and aids us in our learning.

I was able to talk without being dominated by my loud classmates at other tables.

I love it! I actually like going to my biology lecture. And I don't feel like falling asleep (as I do in other lectures). I definitely think it has increased my interest in the class and the subject.

The active learning classroom is a great learning tool. It is perfect for working in groups.

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