USA College of Medicine Active Learning Center

With the exception of a few instructional wet and dry labs, classrooms in the College of Medicine were designed to support a traditional lecture style of teaching.  The differences between the objectives that drive this type of classroom design versus the desirable features of an active learning facility are irreconcilable.  Consequently, it was not advisable to attempt active learning in our auditorium/ lecture halls.  Since the College of Medicine is actively engaged in incorporating active learning strategies, development of a learning/teaching environment commensurate with the instructional methods employed was essential.

Originally a snack bar, the space once used as the College of Medicine Conference Room has seen more than one repurposing episode. However, it was never designed to be exclusively a lecture room.  It offers in excess of 3000 sq. ft. of floor space, electrical rooms, and storage areas.  There is a relatively generous supply of electrical outlets and the lighting is adequate.  Wireless internet access is also available.  This space was the best candidate for development of an active learning environment within a realistic budget.

The approach to repurposing this space has been guided by the following objectives:

  1. Facilitate communication between teachers and students
  2. Facilitate student engagement
  3. Facilitate student collaboration
  4. Incorporate appropriate technology
  5. Have a flexible physical arrangement


Layout and Technology

Several physical factors influenced the location of the team stations and the instructor’s table.  The space accommodates 11 teams of 7 students, allowing for full advantage of the technologies supplied in this room, each team station, as well as the instructor’s table, is located within two feet of an electrical outlet. 

In addition, each team station faces a 42” touch screen monitor. The room includes two large projection screens mounted in front of a solid wall, which prevents the potential of back lighting during projection.  Each team station is positioned within the viewing angle of at least one projection screen.



One Epson Brightlink projector has been installed, which projects the instructor’s computer screen onto a standard whiteboard. The whiteboard becomes an interactive surface with dual pen support. An additional projector screen is located at the opposite end of the room, which projects the same image as the main projection screen.  The room is also equipped with iClicker technology to support both individual and group quizzes.

The instructor’s station and 11 42” monitors utilize the SmartSync software. This allows the instructor to broadcast their computer screen to the 11 monitors for easier viewing.  Each team station can work individually on an assignment,  allowing  the instructor to see what each group is working on in real time. While students are working, the instructor can choose to take over their screen to point them in the right direction, or choose to broadcast their image to the other teams.

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