In a traditional classroom, hundreds of students sit facing a teacher at the front of the room. In a WALS (Western Active Learning Space) classroom, student sit at pods facing each other and the professor is free to roam around the room.
It’s a new type of classroom at Western University designed to help students engage with each other and discuss ideas. To enhance this discussion, the classroom is infused with different types of technology including:
- Projectors at every pod
- Document camera
- HDMI connection
- Ability to route media devices to any or all displays
- Sound system
A room full of state of the art technology is not cheap. Emmanuel Songsore is a WALS coordinator at Western and says “it was funded with a productivity and innovation grant valued at roughly $250,000, and that came from the ministry of training colleges and universities.”
Professor Aleksandra Zecevic teaches a Health Sciences class in the WALS room and sees first hand how the technology enhances student learning.
“The beauty of WALS is that you can project from any pod to any other pod. You can then work on the whiteboard where the image is projected. Once you write everything on the slide using an electronic marker you can save the slides with changes.”
Though the technology is an asset, Zecevic adds that the most important feature is the way the physical space is set up.
“Fixed tables and fixed chairs do not facilitate work between teams or between students, we have to get students to face each other. When they face each other collaboration happens, new ideas are generated, and things can be advanced.”
Even the students notice a big difference from their other classes. Livia Vitaterna is a student is Professor Zecevic’s class and notices how the room keeps her engaged.
“Most classes, doesn’t matter how long they are, I’m always distracted and our class in the WALS room is three hours but I can have everything shut off and for three hows I’m focused into whatever we are doing because it’s so interactive. You aren’t just sitting there listening, you’re actually doing things and participating.”
In Zecevic’s class, each group has to come up with two activities to get the class up and moving.
The WALS room is located in the University Community Centre and is the only one of it’s kind on campus, but they are looking to expand and create more WALS rooms in the future.
With the fast pace growth of technology, it seems that this is an inevitable trend towards a new way of learning.