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Classrooms Get Major Upgrade in Time for Fall Semester
For release: Aug. 28, 2006
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When fall semester classes begin later this month, students at the University of Memphis will notice a few changes. The U of M has spent the summer giving many of its classrooms an update, both in technology and in appearance.

Technicians have been transforming 75 classrooms into "smart" classrooms, installing ceiling-mounted projectors, screens, podiums with laptop computers, and white boards.

The new technology should enhance the educational experience for students and professors. "When professors are assigned to teach a course, they will know they have a basic, technically equipped classroom," said Dr. Maurice Mendel, chair of the Deans' TAF (technology access fee) Committee. "We wanted to standardize the minimum equipment in the classrooms."

Students will have more ways to receive information. "Instructors are now using technology to teach," said Sajjad Mahmood, associate director of Client Services. "They can go to the Web, do PowerPoints, display all the instructions. They can show videos or any kind of instructional DVD."

The Dean's TAF Committee and the Classroom Improvement Committee worked together to select which classrooms would receive a makeover. The committee first did a census of all classrooms on campus, then made the choices after receiving input from deans and department chairs. Mendel stressed that the 75 classrooms were only the first phase, with plans to upgrade all the classrooms on the list eventually.

In addition to technology upgrades, some classrooms were treated to aesthetic improvements, including fresh paint, new furniture, and window and floor treatments.

"It's an important recruitment and retention tool," explained Dr. Chrisann Schiro-Geist, vice provost for Academic Affairs and chair of the Classroom Improvement Committee. "Many of our students come from a high tech environment, and these are the standards they expect. We want to bring every classroom to a consistent level of flexibility and functionality."

A recent study by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers supports that view. In the survey, 74 percent of students responding named facilities related to their majors as "extremely important" or "very important" in selecting a college. Other academic-oriented facilities, including library, technology, and classrooms, followed. Twenty-six percent of students rejected a college because it lacked a facility they thought was important, but inadequate or poorly maintained facilities were almost as important. As many as 17 percent turned down a college because an important facility was not well maintained.

Dunn Hall received one of the most extensive makeovers. Almost all the classrooms in the mathematics and foreign language building were painted. Mismatched furniture was removed. In some cases, furniture that is removed from one classroom can be used in another room, as long as it is still in good condition. "We are using what we have to the advantage of the students," said Schiro-Geist.

In the Theatre and Communication Building, new ceilings and lighting fixtures were installed, in addition to new tile and carpet on the floors. Mini-blinds have been installed in Clement Hall.

Several buildings – including Ellington, Clement, and the Meeman Journalism Building – received new furniture for their lobbies, including round tables where students can set up their laptop computers. It is hoped the new furniture will improve student collaboration and activities.

Funds for the improvements come from student technology access fees and facilities fees. Many of the improvements had been put off due to budget cuts, said Schiro-Geist. "Because of the new fall structure, we will keep phasing in improvements so that our campus will meet the needs of our students and faculty in the age of technology."

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Last updated: 03/19/2008 15:47:26
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