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Spotlight on Spaces: Education 129 – Worth the Trek Up the Hill

Education 129, the first active learning lecture hall at McGill, is a model for lecture halls of the future. The renovation project was completed in 2015, transforming what was formerly a standard tiered auditorium into an active learning lecture hall. Alongside the new layout, this distinct teaching and learning space incorporates little touches that demonstrate that instructor and student engagement and comfort were prioritized in the design of the room.

Education 129 before renovations

The Education 129 of the past (pre-2015) featured long rows of fixed swivel seats, which hindered comfortable interaction with peers and effectively cut off interaction between students seated in the middle with either the instructor or students at the ends of the rows. The claustrophobic setup of the podium and the projector screen largely restricted the instructor to the front of the room. The overall institutional design of the space lacked aesthetic warmth.

Education 129 after renovations

At first glance, Education 129 is a dream space for anyone who appreciates modern design in teaching and learning spaces. The chevron-style lighting and yellow accents uniquely brighten and warm the space. Additionally, the room features art on loan from the McGill Visual Arts collection that has been specifically curated for the classroom. On the back wall of the classroom, translations of the word “education” form a light bulb-shaped design.

Beyond having a distinctly “modern yet warm” character, the renovated space is designed to promote interactivity and collaboration. The new design still features tiers, but instead has tables for students, each with a whiteboard, power plugs for electronics, and ample desktop space. The rounded table design and adjustable-height wheeled chairs promote comfortable face-to-face peer interaction, and students can move around the classroom with ease due to the large centre aisle and the space between the tables. Anticipating increased conversation, there are also acoustic panels around the room and push-to-speak microphones at each table. 

Not only is the space designed to support learning, it is also designed to support teaching. Much like students, the instructor is unfettered by the new room layout, and can easily circulate and interact with students.The dual-source projection, multiple classroom technology sources (e.g., document camera, data projector, computer, and Sympodium) and multiple screens allow the instructor to display different learning materials. Additionally, the room features “confidence screens” or video-conferencing feedback screens, which allow the instructor to view the image on the screen that is being projected.

Are you interested in teaching in Education 129, or any other of McGill’s 14 active learning classrooms? Contact the Timetable Coordinator in your Faculty or Department and make your request. Eager to get started? Check out TLS’s diverse list of active learning strategy video bites to see how you can incorporate active learning into your teaching.

For more information on ALCs, contact TLS.

With files from Erin McDonagh.

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