University struggles to meet tech needs

The University is laying out a plan to meet the escalating demand for high-technology classrooms.

Senior Associate Provost for Academic Operations Craig Linebaugh said faculty requests for classroom technology – including digital projection and wireless capabilities – exceeds the facilities the University can provide.

“We are stretched to the limit right now in terms of ability [to provide technology],” he said.

The Office of Academic Operations is working to balance classroom space concerns as GW adds technological renovations that enhance learning but restrict space, Linebaugh said. He said it is too early to add a timeline to the plans.

Construction and maintenance have put 13 rooms out of use in Corcoran Hall, Monroe Hall, Smith Hall and 1957 E St. Leased buildings, like 2020 K St., are also housing 20 fewer classes to cut costs, creating a space crunch so tight that administrators have discussed adding Saturday classes.

Linebaugh said putting in more of these classrooms means he “may run the risk of students not getting into a particular course they want, because the room doesn’t seat enough people.”

Professors have also been asked to move late-morning or early-afternoon classes – the University’s most popular time slots – to the 8 or 9:35 a.m. time slots, Linebaugh said.

Philippe Bardet, a professor who sits on the Faculty Senate’s physical facilities committee, said the University has monitered how to expand technological opportunities in the classroom while raising its research profile.

“The classrooms are a big issue. The priority of the campus is to teach so we have to find some classrooms for teaching,” said Bardet, who teaches engineering and applied science.

The Academic Technologies office is also outlining upgrades to boost classrooms’ digital capabilities, looking to expand technology like clickers and podcasts and add high-definition screens instead of analog.

Linebaugh said the University only repairs equipment every three years as “they become antiquated, and they break down.”

The University has redone a handful of classrooms in Tompkins and Monroe halls over the last four years, turning lecture-style rooms into “scale-up” teaching laboratories, which are equipped with digital technology and high-definition televisions.

But those rooms also traditionally hold fewer students than larger lecture halls.

The office is looking to draw out how creating future classrooms would look in renovated buildings and the upcoming Science and Engineering Hall, modeling them after the ones it helped develop technology for in Ames Hall on the Mount Vernon Campus and a nursing simulation lab on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus.

The Science and Engineering Hall and the School of Public Health and Health Services buildings will offer additional class space when they open around 2015.

To tackle space issues in the past, the University moved the University Writing Program and part of the University Honors program to the Mount Vernon Campus.

“We’ll make some decisions, predictions – then we can move in to renovate the physical spaces, bring in new technologies,” Linebaugh said. “I wish I could wave a magic wand and say I have a perfect 21st century learning environment, but it’s going to take some time to get there.”

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