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Leeds takes Digital Learning to new levels

March 9, 2017
Learning at the University of Leeds has been transformed by ‘a truly sector leading’ redevelopment of lecture theatre space and digital technology.

Three tiered lecture theatres have been reconfigured to create collaborative digitally-enabled learning spaces as part of a wider £2.8m refurbishment.

The new spaces – Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8, the Dental Lecture Theatre in the Worsley building and Mechanical Engineering Lecture Theatre B – promote group discussion alongside the use of installed technology, providing a boost to group work, interaction, communication and recording.

“A number of universities have reconfigured tiered lecture theatres to allow collaborative working but I had aspirations to embed digital technology to support flipped learning, which hasn’t been done before,” said Professor Neil Morris, Director of Digital Learning.
“It is really exciting to see these new spaces come to life – they are truly sector leading.”

The existing tiers of the Lecture Theatres have been redesigned to create levels of students sitting around trapezoid shaped desks in groups of five.
“This arrangement maintains the tiered nature of the room, so that all users have good line of sight to the front, whilst providing space for groups of seats,” said Professor Morris.
“Each of the desks is equipped with Internet enabled touchscreen hybrid laptop, ‘touch to talk’ desk microphone, built in speaker, spotlight, HDMI input, USB charging and power,” Professor Morris added.

The front of the rooms have a lectern based PC, a control panel, lecture capture, a visualiser, a blu-ray player, large height and tilt-adjustable digital whiteboard with SMART software, dual or triple projectors and a presentation wall. There is no whiteboard or blackboard and no whiteboard pens or chalk.

The first teaching session in the Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre was held last October by Dr. Lee Edwards, Associate Professor, Communication Studies and PR School of Media and Communication.
She said: “Students can access the VLE at their desks, use their interactive whiteboards to write and share work as a group, and their input can easily be integrated into the teaching process through the dual display system. I can create a learning environment that is varied and engaging, using different tools to help students develop and reflect on knowledge in new ways.”

The pilot is now being evaluated by usage, in-room feedback systems, formal module evaluations and through a project by the Leeds Institute of Teaching Excellence.
Professor Morris said: “I predict that in a couple of years the spaces will be fully booked throughout the year and staff will be pushing us for more.”

For full details of the refurbishment go to
http://campusdevelopments.leeds.ac.uk/portfolio-item/lecture-theatre-redesign-project/

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