Active Learning Spaces: Lessons Learned in the United States

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Lesson 1: Put Students at the Center

One important lesson confirmed at the ELI Annual Meeting is that the student experience must form the starting point for innovating classrooms. During the conference, Liv Gjestvang (Ohio State University) and Jennifer Sparrow (Pennsylvania State University) outlined the three most important qualities demanded of current students in relation to the ever-changing labor market:

  • Students must think creatively and divergently.
  • Students must possess digital literacy.
  • Students must have the social skills to function well in teams in different cultural settings.1

To develop these skills, 21st-century students benefit greatly from active learning. As is perhaps expected, they are the target group, with the highest usage of educational spaces. It is therefore important to create educational spaces where students can develop creativity and learn from each other through active education. The active learning space provides students with variation and flexibility in educational modes. Instead of just listening passively to the instructor, they can be more actively involved in discussions, projects, and the lecture itself, which generates more in-class energy and shifts the overall dynamic from teacher-centered to student-centered. During our visit to the University of California–Irvine (UCI) campus, a representative reported that students even use the available active learning classrooms outside of scheduled lectures.

Many institutions give students the opportunity to provide input on learning spaces. For example, McGill University prepared its work plan with five principles for the design and implementation of learning spaces based on the National Student Survey for Student Engagement, a survey of students from 1,450 US institutions.2 Including students in the planning stages, as well as in the implementation of, active learning spaces also helps to ensure that these spaces match students’ goals and needs, which further influences academic impact.


David Brodosi

David Brodosi is an experienced team leader with a demonstrated history of success in the higher education industry. Skilled employer Relations, Nonprofit Organizations, Career Development, Coaching, Conflict Resolution, and instructional design. David Brodosi provides guidance on tech strategies and trends for state-of-the-art classrooms, course development, and faculty design support services. Mr Brodosi is recognized as a thought leader regarding the intersection of AV/IT, collaboration technology that supports his organization’s mission to deliver world-class research and tech solutions for higher education institutions.

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David Brodosi

David Brodosi