By Sarah Stoolman, TLT writing intern

The 15 Sparks Building student computer lab is being renovated over the summer with the intention of supplying students with new learning spaces and technologies beginning fall 2011. Learning spaces are quiet group study areas within regions of the campus student computer labs. The use of learning spaces around the University has been growing as the need for collective thought and group work increases.

The Sparks lab will now have four learning spaces.

“Several years ago we rated non-teaching labs based on condition. Sparks is next on that list. Starting about five years ago, we began putting collaborative learning spaces in all labs we renovate,” noted Kent Becker, manager within Classroom and Lab Computing (CLC).

Located right next to the south entrance of the library, Sparks is a prime location to have another study environment that accommodates group work. The four learning spaces in the Sparks lab will include partitioned, small group spaces to ensure a feeling of seclusion for the groups who are at work. Each of these learning spaces can accommodate two to four people. There will also be nine individual work stations for students.

Along with the actual learning spaces, the equipment in these labs is also important for an effective group work environment. “We plan to install a whiteboard wall in one of the collaborative learning spaces in Sparks to help facilitate students working on group projects,” stated Becker.

As the assignment of group work seems to be growing in popularity, students are seeking places of convenience for working on projects with multiple people. These learning spaces are designed explicitly for that, so that groups of students aren’t forced to work in uncomfortable conditions that do not comply with the needs of a group.

Technology can serve as a very attractive aspect for prospective students, however the renovated lab, accompanied with its advanced technologies, was not installed merely for the purpose of recruitment. “That (appealing to potential students) isn’t our primary goal. We’re interested in providing technology that enhances students’ abilities to effectively collaborate on group assignments,” said Becker.

Along with being an attractive University asset, the advanced technologies that are present in these learning spaces will definitely serve a purpose even after graduation. Experience with a whiteboard wall, for instance, will provide a student with an upper hand when entering the job market. Not only are these learning spaces beneficial for students now, but also for their futures.

Collaborative academic projects are sometimes more difficult to accomplish because of the variance in everyday students’ lives. These learning spaces definitely serve to provide students with the tools and surroundings they need in order to thrive in a group dynamic. As the number of learning spaces increase on Penn State’s campus, group work has a greater chance of reaching its full potential. Working with others is a complicated task, but environments such as this one in Sparks Building will serve to ease the process.

To find Sparks and other CLC lab locations, go here.

For more information on the CLC, go here.

Classroom and Lab Computing logotype

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