During the Horizon Hall project, GMU had the initiative that at least 30% of all classrooms support active learning pedagogy. To meet this challenge, Clemons explained, “We wanted to provide and leverage flexibility in these spaces.” The learning spaces in Horizon Hall were designed to accommodate 30-square-feet per student, include lots of white board space, and utilize movable furniture. “Everything is movable. We’ve even designed the lectern to be movable,” she noted. “We really designed to take full advantage of flexibility. Given this,” she noted, “we wanted to include technologies that would also enhance and leverage that flexibility.”
“You don’t find a lot of schools or colleges going the route where all of their classrooms are active learning in nature,” said Ajinkya Patil, lead project designer from Convergent Technologies Design Group. “There is no fixed seating at all. That was part of the uniqueness of this project.”
Without any fixed seating, facilitating an active learning classroom would require a way for both faculty and students to collaborate and share content from anywhere in the classrooms. Wireless content sharing was a critical point that GMU needed to achieve in Horizon Hall. In addition to enabling faculty to walk around the collaborative space and share from their laptop or tablet, it was also important that the students could do the same. “Having the students be able to wirelessly connect, work with their groups, and share throughout the room was key, as well,” explained LeAnn Pittman, Learning Space Design Manager at GMU.
Another significant requirement to fully utilize a wireless content sharing platform was BYOD (bring your own device). Faculty and students needed the ability to bring any wireless device to the space, and no matter the type of device – laptop, tablet, or smartphone; Android or iOS; PC or Mac, etc. – it would need to work well and integrate with the wireless collaboration platform in the room. It was vital to have technology solutions for Horizon Hall that supported both faculty and student groups.
Finally, GMU needed to have a reliable wireless solution that would work seamlessly on the GMU network, accommodating the flexibility of the spaces without compromising security. The flexibility and wireless nature of the project meant there were technical design challenges to consider. “This was, on such a large scale, probably our first project where there were no dedicated AV rooms,” explained Patil. “All of the AV throughout such a large building is riding completely on the network, which becomes a challenge in itself. That is what makes this project pretty unique. With all the AV and IT collocated, we had to work in very close coordination with the IT team.” Security was a critical requirement and design consideration for this project.
Key requirements for Horizon Hall’s collaboration technology included: