October 8, 2012
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Collaboration leads to high-tech learning environment
|Students in the Communication Design Program Learning Environment’s Design Incubator Lab learn with an array of new classroom technology.|
If there’s a message sent by MSU Denver’s new Communication Design Program Learning Environment, it’s that collaboration is key.
The new learning space, which opened at the beginning of fall semester on the third floor of the Central Classroom Building, is a suite of rooms designed to teach students in a way that uses technology to encourage them to work in groups, interact with one another and share ideas.
“We’re moving to a more fluid way of working that mimics the way people work in the world,” says Lisa Abendroth, coordinator of the Communication Design Program, which is housed in the Art Department. “The whole space is designed to encourage student collaboration.”
True to form, the space itself is a collaboration. To get the project going, James Lyall, MSU Denver's chief information officer, and Sean Nesbitt, director of facilities planning and space management, came through with funding and support. School of Letters, Arts and Sciences Dean Joan Foster and Art Department Chair Greg Watts provided additional financial resources necessary to fully develop the Communication Design Program vision. But since its inception, Abendroth has worked closely with Lee Taylor, supervisor of desktop support for MSU Denver’s Division of Academic Computing.
Abendroth had the vision. Taylor provided the technical expertise.
“It was important to get this off the ground,” Taylor says. “It’s a model for the future.”
|The Collaboration Learning Lab encourages students to share ideas with each other and with professors.|
The suite includes the Letterpress Lab, the Collaborative Learning Lab, the Design Incubation Lab, a library and offices for professors.
Examples of new technology appear throughout the space. In the Collaborative Learning Lab, for example, students can check out new MacBook Pro laptops and sit in groups around 48-inch monitors so they can easily share their work and ideas. Over in the Design Incubation Lab, students can rearrange the classroom using “smart desks.” Each desk is on wheels so students can easily arrange the classroom space to work in groups. Professors and students alike can present on smart boards with swipe technology.
“The aim is to be entirely wireless,” Taylor says. “We’re trying to keep up with the latest technology.”
Abendroth adds that the space helps students understand what it’s like to work in an agency setting and what it’s like to work with an art director. By using technology, Abendroth says, it’s easier to get students to share their ideas and their work—just as communication design professionals do in the workplace.
“The philosophy we impart is that your work is stronger when you have other voices represented in your work,” Abendroth says.
|In the Letterpress Lab, students learn to connect old technology with new technology.|
Having worked with Communication Design faculty Kelly Monico and Peter Bergman for the better part of two years, Abendroth says the space also reinforces the new curriculum offered by the program: a BFA in Communication Design. The new fall 2012 curriculum reflects the learning environment’s expanded capability. The faculty would even like to add a master’s program.
Taylor continues to fix any technical wrinkles that crop up in the space as well as test new technology.
“At the end of the day, I value the expertise that comes from information technology,” Abendroth says. “I couldn’t imagine doing this on our own without the collaboration of all the people who are involved in it.”