New classroom renovations include improved technology

Room 100 in Willamette Hall

Several classrooms got a renovation over winter break and already are getting attention for the improvements.

Room 100 in Willamette Hall received new, streamlined seats and improved audiovisual and sound equipment. The large, lecture-style classroom, which is often used by physics classes, got major improvements to better facilitate demonstrations.

“The previous projector screens in the classroom posed some major challenges for instructors using the space,” said Chuck Triplett, associate vice president for academic infrastructure. “With the renovation, we were able to increase the size of the projector screen and install new projectors and demonstration cameras to better serve the needs of the classes in the space.”

The renovation replaced the room’s worn and squeaky seats with new seats that will be easier to maintain, while still keeping a similar seat count for the classroom. Some final renovations are planned for next summer, including new flooring and a new storage room.

Additionally, renovations were completed to Rooms 240A and C in McKenzie Hall. Before the renovation, the classrooms featured several tiered rows of chairs that all faced the front of the room. Now the classrooms have movable tables and chairs that can be reconfigured to encourage collaborative learning as well as technology upgrades, including wireless streaming to projectors.

The renovations are part of the UO’s investment in maintaining a diverse portfolio of teaching spaces for different types of classes and styles of teaching. Triplett said the UO is continually working on ways to enhance current spaces and is planning additional classroom improvements.

For Mike Urbanic, a senior instructor of economics, the improvements fit right in with his concepts of space and how he teaches students.

“The layout, furniture and displays of a classroom shape expectations and social norms,” Urbancic said. “In active classrooms, students don’t just see or hear what’s going on at lecture. They practice working through the concepts as they go, interacting with peers and instructors.”

Urbancic, a 2019 Williams Fellow, is one of many faculty members who incorporate active learning — activities and collaborative work, for example — into lectures to offer students different opportunities to learn. He will be teaching a course in Room 240A in McKenzie Hall this coming spring.

“Active rooms — with more space, peer-focused seating and portable whiteboards — encourage discussions, group work and movement,” Urbancic said. “I adore teaching in the very active 41 Knight Library classroom during summer sessions. The new McKenzie 240A will finally allow me to teach my courses just as actively during traditional terms.”

Active learning strategies and materials are commonplace for many types of classes. Instructors often need flexible spaces for anything from group discussions to demonstrations.

“Many instructors want to use class time for students to interact with one another and together grapple with difficult, interesting problems and questions,” said Lee Rumbarger, assistant vice provost for teaching engagement. “I’m so heartened to see the UO’s classroom inventory evolving to better reflect the range of pedagogies our faculty employ.”

—By Jesse Summers, University Communications