The University of Central Missouri designed the Active Learning Engagement Classroom in the fall of 2017 at the James C. Kirkpatrick Library. It enables faculty to engage with innovative teaching technologies in a classroom environment.
The ALEC room was designed for using different collaborative learning techniques and includes three 55-inch active learning displays, an integrated room controller, a wireless display pod and a main instructional display.
Mike Jeffries, innovation and academic technology specialist, compiled research of active learning with his wife, Chalice Jeffries, and gave a presentation at the Teaching Professor Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana in the summer of 2019. They did their presentation on the perceptions of teachers and students using the ALEC room.
“We found that any time you develop a space that encourages student engagement, learning itself and retention increases,” Mike Jeffries said.
He said ALEC was developed not just to have a classroom to use, but to have a classroom to demonstrate what an engaged classroom might look like.
“It will benefit the students if UCM takes note of what these findings are and devotes resources to improve learning spaces across campus,” he said.
Mike Jeffries said studies have shown if that action is taken it will not only benefit the student, but it benefits instructors because their comfort level and engagement with students rises.
Robert Hallis, library professor at James C. Kirkpatrick Library, teaches history of popular music and said the ALEC room has been “an absolute wonder” because they’re working with popular music and students are able to display music on the monitors.
“You don’t talk about music; you experience it,” Hallis said. “They can display their choice of music and can compare versions of performances simultaneously instead of one at a time.”
Hallis teaches the same course in a regular classroom and in the ALEC room and said the ALEC room makes class time more effective. Hallis also said he finds the juxtaposition between non-ALEC rooms and ALEC rooms fascinating.
“Once students get over the ‘deer-in-the-headlight’ phase about everyone being able to see their work, they’re a lot more involved in their learning.” Hallis said. “Twenty-first century teaching involves problem solving and memorizing. In here, the students are able to express what they know and love.”
From an instructor’s perspective, Hallis said he finds it astounding to combine such collaborative learning in one environment. He said he believes the ALEC room prepares students for the 21st century workforce and challenges them to think instead of memorizing things.
According to a Qualitative Analysis of ALEC Perceptions done by Jenni Hayes, Taylor Kinde, Julie Lewis, and Elmer Ragus, the researchers wished to uncover themes from participants’ own voices and perceptions to determine what students and faculty thought about ALEC and to make recommendations for improvement. They received positive feedback in a Combined Student/Faculty Survey Data for all semesters starting at fall 2017.
When asked if given the opportunity would the student take another class in the ALEC room, 85 percent of the students marked yes. There was even positive feedback like,“It was easier to communicate with teachers and classmates” and “It was nice that we could sit wherever we wanted and could still see a display. I hate when classrooms are so structured. This was more conducive to how different people learn.”
The ALEC experience was overwhelmingly viewed as positive by both faculty and students compared to a traditional classroom. Due to the possibilities, the ALEC was perceived as a step in the right direction and is the first of its kind at the University of Central Missouri.