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May 23, 2003

Big project will improve 3 of 4 university classrooms

by Anne Krapfl
A three-year, $14.2 million effort to improve classrooms and auditoriums on campus will impact more than 85 percent of Iowa State's classroom seats. The work began this spring with eight classroom remodels and upgrades to the instructional media in another 24 rooms.

The improvements will be completed prior to the start of fall semester in 2005 and will be paid for with capital appropriations authorized by the 2002 Iowa Legislature.

Iowa State has about 235 classrooms and auditoriums available for instruction; this project will improve 182 of them, including two auditoriums (rooms 3 and 5) in Physics and the LeBaron auditorium. (In the case of LeBaron, the existing auditorium on the northwest corner of the building will be demolished and replaced with all-new construction.)

The project also includes funds ($850,000) for two general use classrooms in Morrill Hall when it is renovated.

More than $1 million will be spent on both Carver and Pearson halls, where nearly two dozen rooms in each building will receive work. Over three years, another $720,000 will be invested in Ross Hall classrooms.

The work could be as simple as several thousand dollars worth of technology upgrades, required as systems both sustain use and become outdated. The more extensive room remodels will involve some combination of new seating, lighting, flooring, room reconfiguration, paint, consoles for classroom technology and the media equipment itself.

A vision for classrooms
Whenever possible, the classroom remodels will incorporate recommendations from an ad hoc classroom visioning committee appointed last fall by Howard Shapiro, vice provost for undergraduate education. The group recommended standards for physical improvements to such things as lighting, heating and cooling, seating and other room furnishings, and media technology. The intent of those improvements is enhanced teaching and student learning.

Katie Baumgarn, room scheduling, and Matt Darbyshire, Instructional Technology Center, lead the effort to implement the recommendations. Among the group's ideas are:

  • Zoned lighting, to improve visibility and readability of chalkboards, white boards or projector screens.
  • More comfortable seating, especially as class lengths are extended.
  • Rotatable or movable seating in large classrooms and auditoriums, so students have options for small group huddles or discussion.
  • Simplified controls for lighting and instructional technology.
  • As much as possible, standardized technologies so faculty are comfortable in more than just a few classrooms.
  • Reconfigured rooms so that students' sight lines to chalk boards, white boards or screens aren't distorted.
"Even though the project is under way, we'll continue to use the criteria the group recommended," Baumgarn said. "As we get to these rooms, we are going back to the list of criteria to see what can be done."

She said faculty will be asked this fall to get involved in reviewing and rating room design options for spaces that are scheduled for remodel.

Aggressive schedule
Much will be accomplished in a relatively short time because the work will continue year-round. Typically, classroom remodels and repairs occur in the summer because that's when demand for the space is down, said Baumgarn. An average of 22 classrooms will receive improvements every spring, summer or fall term between now and September 2005, with an average 10 of those being full remodels. Under the old, summer-only system, Baumgarn said six remodels a year were more realistic.

The more aggressive schedule means classes will be asked to move during a school term and faculty may have to teach outside their home buildings temporarily.

"But we hope everyone will remember that, when the work is done, they'll be moving to much nicer space," Baumgarn said. "The intent is to help faculty who want to use the high technology to teach their students, and to create a better learning environment for the students."

Classroom improvements: Where the money will be spent
General classrooms $6.9 million
LeBaron auditorium$5 million
Physics auditoriums (2) $1.5 million
Morrill classrooms (2) $850,000

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Published by: University Relations,
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