Innovative Classroom Technology Funded By Operational Excellence

Inside the Trammell Crow Building’s upgraded room (All photos by Ian Aberle)
Inside the Trammell Crow Building’s upgraded room (All photos by Ian Aberle)

Last summer, the Office of Information Technology used funds allocated from Operational Excellence savings to outfit six new classrooms with cutting-edge “prototype” technology for SMU. Based on the expectations expressed in student and faculty technology surveys and direction from the Academic Technology Council (ATC), the new classrooms offer wireless screen mirroring, increased interactivity and expanded student device connection.

The project was overseen by a subcommittee of the ATC comprised of Dr. Amit Basu (Cox) and Dr. Tony Cuevas (Simmons), with facilitation and guidance from Jason Warner, Director of Academic Technology Services for OIT.  Robert Walker from CUL also participated on the committee.

“Our work to develop cutting-edge classrooms focused more on types of teaching than on technology for technology’s sake,” said Warner. “In addition to working with ATC, OIT coordinated with the Center for Teaching Excellence to understand teaching best practices and how to equip teachers at SMU in the best possible ways.”

The rooms chosen for upgrades were identified to address four teaching formats:

  1. Seminar/Discussion – Dallas Hall 138
  2. Team-based – Annette Simmons 218
  3. Lecture – Umphrey Lee 241, Junkins 112, Owen Arts Center 1030
  4. Case-based – Crow 280

All six spaces received technologies such as new ADA-compliant lecterns that are larger and have adjustable height, Mersive Solstice pods that offer wireless presentation interfaces to facilitate screen sharing from student mobile devices, new seven-inch touchscreens for easier instructor control, Blu Ray players and room management automation. Each room features a different type of projection and additional components, based on the teaching format used in that space.

The team-based upgrades in Annette Simmons 218
The team-based upgrades in Annette Simmons 218

For example, the seminar/discussion classroom has a widescreen, 1080P interactive projector and the team-based space uses multiple Epson interactive projectors and white-boards to allow separate content streams to be displayed simultaneously around the classroom or shared on the main screen.

Warner says initial feedback on the new technology has been positive. “Once faculty and students adjusted to the new platforms and installation kinks were worked out, we began hearing that the new classroom technologies really do have the potential to elevate both teaching and student experiences at SMU. Our next steps will be to promote the classrooms to faculty so they can schedule their classes in the new spaces next year and give us more feedback on how to improve them.”

Now that the equipment is in use, OIT will repeat student and faculty surveys to determine how teaching and campus experience changed in these spaces and how to approach future classroom upgrades.