Four Corners: Interactive Classroom Facilities
Megan Cole: There is currently an interactive classroom building in Social Ecology I and UCI is planning to build a new one adjacent to Humanities Hall. Do you have any experience with the interactive classroom building right now, and do you feel like it’s beneficial to use funds to build another one in Humanities?
Caitlin Antonios: I am taking a philosophy class in the interactive classroom in Social Ecology I. I think it’s pointless and doesn’t actually make anything any more interactive than if it were just set in a normal classroom.
MC: Can you describe the classroom a little bit?
CA: We had an employee come and introduce the classroom to us. It’s octagonal, and on each wall, there are these things they call pods. They’re essentially really long tables and at the head of each table is a giant TV, and students are meant to all connect to it with a specific password and interact with each other. The chairs are not super comfortable, but they roll.
John Nardolillo: Imagine you walk into a class and there are all the desks there, and imagine they’re all on wheels and portable. I had a different experience when I walked in. First of all, I was immediately excited when I walked into my first class, which is not the case with any of my other classes. Imagine if your philosophy class was in just a regular old dank classroom.
Juan Gonzalez: You’re taking a philosophy class. The room doesn’t really work out for that. So probably, if it were another class, it would have been useful. But for humanities students, what are you going to do with the resources, you get me? So from your perspective, it’s useless.
CA: No, it’s not just from my perspective, because they’re making another of the same buildings in the humanities based on the supposedly positive student responses. I’d like to see the positive responses.
MC: What classes are being offered there? What have you all taken?
JG: I’ve had an education class in there, and from what I can say, the room — although we didn’t use it to its full potential or half its potential — is pretty neat, in a way. Students tend to enjoy working in a collaborative manner, and just having that space available helps students work together. For example, in my education class, we had discussion there, and instead of meeting together as a group outside of class, we used that time in class to get stuff done. We didn’t use the TV or any of that, but every table had USB ports and chargers, which is convenient.
CA: I agree with that. There’s much more USB accessibility, so you can just plug in your stuff. But essentially, you’re just saying that being split into groups was more beneficial, but you can just move desks in a classroom and do that.
MC: So does anyone think this would disproportionately help STEM majors or humanities majors, or does it seem designed equally for both?
Michelle Bui: Honestly, it sounds like it’s being built because of its novelty. It doesn’t sound like it offers any resources for collaboration that students can’t achieve the same way through something like Google Docs. I’ve never been in one of the classrooms, but it sounds like they’re primarily used to facilitate group work.
CA: Which no one likes.
JG: Yeah, honestly, no one really likes group work.
JN: What, are you guys saying you don’t like to play with others?
JG: Well, the point is, there are classes that enforce technology. And that just opens a whole conversation about the generation gap and how students are very knowledgeable using technology and teachers aren’t. That’s why the employee came in and explained what the classroom is all about. I think that room is fine, but building another one is excessive.
JN: You know what, they’re probably using it as a selling point to bring people in. If I was a high school student thinking about going here, and I heard about an interactive classroom, I’d think, “Awesome! This place rocks!”
MC: Let me ask another question. UCI is currently undergoing a space crisis while admitting more students than ever before, and that makes it hard for some people to have an adequate class size or for people to enroll in their desired classes at all. I’m sure you have all had problems registering for classes that are full. So do you think it would make sense that, instead of spending money on an interactive classroom facility with, say, 20 seats, UCI could just build a normal classroom with 50 seats and get more students in?
JG: Well, if it’s going to be in the humanities, it’s almost guaranteed there’s going to be a STEM class there, or the other way around. There are humanities classes in the Engineering Hall. I had HumCore discussion in the ICS buildings. So it’s all about booking space wherever it exists. We have the space, it just isn’t always conveniently located.
CA: But that’s also inconvenient for students. I have two classes in HIB and one all the way at engineering, and it’s so inconvenient to have all my classes in one area and then, because they couldn’t find space for this one tiny discussion, I have 10 minutes to walk across Aldrich Park for a 50 minute class and then walk back. Obviously there is a space crisis.
MB: But if that is an issue, then making an interactive classroom is not going to solve that at all. It’s just going to take away funds that could be used for solving a very obvious problem.
JG: I agree. I don’t think an interactive classroom will help the humanities.
MB: So they’re not even putting in any effort to improve the existing humanities buildings, they’re just adding this extra building to it that’s not actually helpful.
MC: It’s not reserved for humanities classes, it’s just in the humanities area.
MB: What’s the point of putting it in the humanities if it’s likely not going to be used by humanities students?
MC: Probably because that’s where there’s space.
JG: So instead of having an interactive classroom, what can be constructed, or where can the money be allocated?
CA: I would rather have renovations, especially for Humanities Hall and Murray Krieger Hall.
JN: Murray Krieger can stay. We don’t have classes over there.
CA: The elevators are scary.
MC: Half of my TA’s and professors who have offices in Murray Krieger hold their office hours elsewhere because they don’t think their offices are conducive to talking to students. Sometimes, several TA’s are cramped in one small office.
MB: It’s like they’re hoping that this new advanced classroom will overshadow all these old things, but all these decrepit buildings are still going to be there.
CA: And I mean, we are very lucky to be at UCI. It’s such a nice campus, and there are nice buildings. I just think this particular new endeavor is a waste.
JG: My issue is that I just don’t see how it can be used for humanities at all. As an educational sciences major, I’ve encountered a lot of studies that talk about how collaboration in a classroom is effective, but in regards to some courses — humanities in particular — it doesn’t really help. But I like the premise. It’s an attempt to help us out, but when considering the amount of money allocated towards these types of facilities, you have to think about it in the long run.
JN: I want them to figure out exactly the best way to utilize it. We have an employee coming in telling us how it works and the teacher doesn’t even know how to use it. I believe there is a way to utilize it, and I don’t know if it’s for humanities or chemistry, or dissection of frogs or whatever.
JG: I think right now it’s a test run. They’re going to compare student improvement before and after using the classroom. For example, for your philosophy class, it isn’t going to help, but for classes that are heavy on group work, they are probably going to compare grades from before using the room and after and see if there’s a correlation between it.
JN: Maybe they need to open up the other one and get some more test runs in there.
JG: I think it would be cool if it were an open space for students to study in there, instead of using it only as a classroom. You can have this as a resource for students to work and do what they want to do. Because in class, you’re forced to work with a group you don’t necessarily like, but when you really need to get something done and you really need that collaborative aspect to it, this would help.
Megan Cole is the editor-in-chief.
Caitlin Antonios is the editor of opinion section.
John Nardolillo is the associate editor of the sports section.
Juan Gonzalez is the managing editor.
Michelle Bui is the associate editor of the opinion section.