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pharmacy classroom University of Minnesota Duluth

The active learning classroom in room 410 of the Martin Library.

Televisions On, Microphones On, Cameras On. Let’s Learn.

Watch out. The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) is amping up its classrooms. In March, 2013, UMD Information Technology Systems and Services (ITSS) and the College of Pharmacy Duluth came together to design and create the first active learning classroom on campus.

Randy Seifert, associate dean of the College of Pharmacy Duluth explains the history behind the making of the new classroom in room 410 of the Martin Library.

“We started developing a new curriculum a couple years ago with a strong desire to include a higher level of active learning,” said Seifert. “It was important for us to collaborate with ITSS and the Twin Cities campus to build two updated pharmacy classrooms at the same time, one for UMD and one in the Twin Cities.”

The rows of seats with a professor and a blackboard are gone. Instead, writing surfaces and large screens encourage students to take part in the class. Flexible furniture allows the professor to engage with students to produce meaningful experiences. Courses have been redesigned to invite students to participate and collaborate with each other. Inviting students to respond to films, visuals, videos, documentaries, and even news stories, encourages deeper learning. It works. The research supports it. When a space is student-centered, interactive, integrated, and flexible, people learn more.

The estimated cost for the two new classrooms was too high, but the need for more active learning was so important, the College of Pharmacy Duluth wouldn't give up. They joined forces with ITSS to come up with a plan to save money while still acquiring the necessary equipment.

“This was an excellent way for us to work together and to save the university a lot of money,” said Paul Ranelli, professor of social pharmacy at UMD. 

In the end, an existing UMD library room was remodeled and outfitted in brand new equipment by ITSS staff. The cost was $450,000, a savings to the university of almost $500,000 of the original bid. The Twin Cities campus’s room came in under budget as well.

Most important to the new space is the state-of-the-art video conferencing capabilities that allow for UMD and Twin Cities campuses to connect at any time. The classroom in 410 Library has a different feel. “Most of the teaching is live teaching," said Ranelli. The technology allows sophisticated interaction with active learning. "Students sit in pods of nine, each pod having access to electronic capabilities, including multiple television screens, microphones, and computer sharing abilities.”

“I see excitement on the faces of my students in the the new classroom, “ said Ranelli. “To see them intrigued by the new functions is what I enjoy most.”

More about the pharmacy classroom

Story by Erin Lehman, October, 2013.

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