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UI creates high-tech study room

BY ALLIE JOHNSON | FEBRUARY 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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As students walk through the glass doors of the Van Allen Commons, they walk into a world of deep concentration and collaboration.

An array of computers, desks, movable whiteboards, soft seating, and television screens are spread out across the 3,200-square-foot space, built for students to study and work in.

The room, located on the third floor of the University of Iowa’s Van Allen Hall, which opened this semester, was designed to create a learning space in which students can do homework and study outside of the classroom.

Chris Clark, the Learning Spaces technology manager for Information Technology Services, said after looking at other Big Ten schools, the UI team members decided they wanted to create a space in which students could study in groups.

“You look in the library, and you see students pushing chairs together anyways,” he said. “The idea is, why aren’t we making these areas in which students can learn like this.”



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The study space is next door to one of the university’s “Transform, Interact, Learn, Engage” high-tech classrooms and was built under the same initiative. The project, including the classroom and study space, cost $1.2 million.

Funding comes from the American Reinstatement and Recovery Act, state appropriations, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Despite the cost, Clark said, it is worth it.

“It’s been met very positively, and if it’s popular with the students and helps their success, it’s money well-spent,” Clark said.

UI freshman John Crompton said he studies in the commons about twice a week and has seen at least a dozen students using the space.

“There are computers that are always open, and I like the whiteboard walls,” he said. “It is way better than the dorms.”

Crompton said he likes the sound-proof study rooms because he can easily work on group projects without disrupting other people.

He found out about the Van Allen Commons from his physics tutor, who suggested he study there, he said.

The room has approximately 19 computers, and students can also plug their laptops onto one of seven big screens so the entire group can see.

UI senior Darys Kriegel, a sociology major, said he loves that the study room is near all his centralized classes.

“It’s really useful, because on Sunday nights, I hold a sociology department-wide undergraduate study session in here, and it’s enough room to get everyone together,” he said. “We use the computers, different rooms, and the giant monitors are great for presentations.”

Kriegel said the space has a great feel to it, and it features comfortable seating and other chairs that lean back so laptops are at the right angle.

“The space is enough that there is enough room so that you can break everything up, and different people can work on different things and all be in an area where we’re not stepping on each others’ toes,” Kriegel said.

But despite all the technology surrounding him and his friends Tuesday night, his favorite part were the walls.

“We just found out about the whiteboards, and we realized the entire wall is a whiteboard, which is awesome,” he said with a huge grin. “I’m definitely excited about the whiteboards.”


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