Faculty Interviews: Mosaic and Standard Classrooms
Analysis of the faculty interviews revealed commonalities and differences in teaching approaches. Five out of six instructors reported that they regularly combine short lectures with group discussion and collaborative activities. Only one course, Ethics and Diversity, was primarily discussion-based. Two faculty members cited using interactive tools such as Top Hat/clickers with their students. Surprisingly, only two out of six instructors felt they had to employ slightly different teaching strategies in the different learning environments (Mosaic vs. traditional) mainly due to technology enhancements that were not available in the general inventory classroom.
In terms of the features within the Mosaic classroom that facilitated teaching and learning activities, instructors valued having sufficient space to move around easily. All faculty members noted that the layout of the room, which included rows of tables as well as oval collaboration tables with embedded power outlets, facilitated group work well and provided students with ample space for their items. One faculty member stated that she appreciated Solstice, which allowed students to easily project their work to their peers, whereas a different interview participant liked the multiple projection screens at the front of the classroom as it enabled different content to be displayed at the same time.
Even though the Mosaic classroom had particular advantages, some classroom features made aspects of teaching and learning difficult. For example, all of the interviewees mentioned that the large space was prohibitive for students who sat in the back of the room, which was at such a distance that seeing course content and hearing the instructor became problematic. To address this challenge, one professor suggested having more projection screens. A lavalier microphone could also be beneficial as it would amplify an instructor’s voice. Another challenge of the Mosaic classroom was its stadium-style seating, which requires students with accessibility issues to position themselves in front of the classroom. Instructors also commented that it was challenging to quickly move between groups because of the distance between the tables.
In terms of advantages of the regular classrooms, instructors noted that the smaller general inventory classrooms meant students could both see and hear well and felt connected. Some instructors appreciated that, in some classrooms, students had movable chairs and stationary tables, whereas others felt there were too many rolling chairs. Overall, instructors felt that the regular classrooms better facilitated large group discussions. They also appreciated the ease with which they were able to see all their students. On the negative side, instructors complained that the regular classrooms lacked space to move around and group work proved more challenging. Other issues in the regular classroom were primarily technically-oriented, as faculty members were limited to using one projector and students did not have ample access to power outlets. In terms of aesthetics, the rooms were not as visually pleasing as the Mosaic learning space.
Two thirds of the interviewees suggested that a “smaller version” of Hine Hall 118 would be ideal. For example, Hine Hall 118 could be improved if the classroom space was more compact, but still offered students the ability to move around. Half of the interviewees did not find it challenging to teach in two different types of classrooms in the same semester, whereas two interviewees noted difficulties in preparing varied learning activities for the different environments. Only one instructor was neutral on teaching in the different classroom contexts.
When offered the option to select their preferred classroom teaching space, most of the instructors selected Hine Hall 118 over their general inventory classroom, although IT 167 and BS 2007 were also noted as ideal spaces. The instructors reported they used the wall-mounted whiteboards, the large projection screens, the wireless network access, the movable student seating, and the document camera most frequently in a given week. In addition, two instructors noted using collaborative displays and Solstice for their classes.
Half of the interviewees felt that the classroom’s location was not important; five out of the six study participants considered classroom features to be more important. Four out of six interviewees thought the affordances/layout of furniture for group work (e.g., moveable chairs) was important. The following classroom affordances were cited as essential:
- Sufficient space for group work and instructor movement
- High-quality whiteboards with markers
- Strong classroom acoustics
- Solstice/ability for students to share their desktops
- High-quality internet connection, two projectors/screens
- HDMI connectors for faculty laptop
- Faculty control of lighting (especially lowering lights at front of the room)
- Power outlets for students