The doors have now opened to the new look Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8. The Lecture theatre has been transformed over the last few months to create a sector leading and innovative teaching environment.
The pilot refurbishment programme encompassed three, tiered lecture theatres in key locations across campus, upgrading teaching space to a new set of standards which seeks to improve collaborative and technologically enabled experiences for staff and students alike.
This exciting redevelopment of space will allow group discussion alongside the use of installed technology, bringing about group work, interaction, communication and recording.
Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning at the University of Leeds, wrote an excellent blog post for the University of Leeds Campus Development website here, but below are a few choice excerpts:
“All universities have large tiered lecture theatres. They were designed in a time when didactic teaching was the preferred method of teaching and learning in higher education. They serve a purpose of mass education – a ‘one to many’ model where the teacher is the expert and the students are sat in rows absorbing information by writing down everything the teacher says.
Flipped learning is not possible in traditional large tiered lecture theatres. So, enter learning spaces 2.0. A number of universities have re-configured tiered lecture theatres to allow collaborative working – see David Hopkins’ excellent blog on this for examples across the sector. These are good spaces, and we looked at these when developing plans for our project, but I had particular aspirations to embed digital technology in these spaces to support flipped learning, which hasn’t been done before.
Let me take you on a tour of the new room, its functionality and its intended use. Firstly, the physical space. The immediate challenge of re-configuring a tiered lecture theatre is the ‘rake’ – we have converted the floor into a series of levels, with multiple groups of students working on each level (including wheelchair users). This arrangement maintains the tiered nature of the room, so that all users have good ‘line of sight’ to the front of the room, whilst providing space for groups of seats. The next challenge is maintaining the occupancy levels for the room – inevitably occupancy is reduced when you re-design these rooms – rows of seats is the most efficient use of space, and any other configuration will reduce space, but we have managed to only lose around 10-30% of seats, which I believe is an acceptable compromise for the benefits we have gained.
What do the teachers and students think of these new rooms? Well that is one question I can’t answer – literally as I write the first room is being used for a real teaching session for the first time. We will be evaluating the project in a variety of ways, including usage, in-room feedback systems, formal module evaluations etc., and the Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence will be running a formal evaluation project over the coming year. So watch this space for feedback on the success of this project. I know the rooms will be extremely popular with students and I suspect that staff will warm to them over the coming year; I predict that in a couple of years they will be fully booked throughout the year and staff will be pushing us for more.
I would like to end with thanks for all colleagues, vendors and contractors for all their support, hard work, imagination and drive to realise this vision. We are fortunate to have the support of some great partners and a fantastic team of colleagues within the University dedicated to enhance the student experience at Leeds.