Designing Smart Classrooms of the Future

By Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D. Chief Learning Innovation Officer, Director, Institute for Learning Environment Design, University of Central Oklahoma

Bucky J. Dodd, Ph.D. Chief Learning Innovation Officer, Director, Institute for Learning Environment Design, University of Central Oklahoma

When I reflect on my educational journey, one of the first images that comes to mind is the classrooms where I interacted. I still remember my kindergarten classroom with the bright color bulletin boards and the different learning centers. I recall the structured college classrooms and large lecture halls.

"Designing smart classrooms can be a challenging and fun experience. As you engage in this process, place the learner at the center of discussions and use the design of the environment to help shape and personalize the experience of learners and educators"

Classrooms are always changing. The Internet has given students a way of connecting on-demand with information and people from around the world. Interactive display surfaces and mobile devices have augmented the way we present and engage with information. Advances in data analytics and artificial intelligence provides new ways of gaining insights into the learning process like never before.

Even in the mist of this change, a fundamental principle holds true…Our learning experiences are shaped by the environments around us.

The smart classroom concept presents an exciting opportunity to envision the future of learning environment design across both physical and digital spaces. Educators are no longer limited to the physical classroom, but must also consider the role the digital environment plays in supporting learning experiences. While the learner characteristics may be unique, educators across disciplines and education levels play an increasingly central role in designing environments for learning.

Consider the example of a university class where students engage with adaptive courseware prior to attending a live, in-person session. Upon entering the classroom, students are guided to specialized learning groups based on their interactions with the adaptive learning platform. In these groups, students are paired with coaches that focus on key concepts while using interactive display technologies to allow learners to visualize their learning processes with others in the group.

This is one example of where the integration of technology provides a smart learning environment that leverages several different types of spaces, places, and resources. Designing successful smart classrooms is an exercise in systems thinking that unifies a suite of design criteria in a strategic way.

Smart classrooms in physical and digital contexts bring a level of data intelligence, automation, and adaptability that is difficult to achieve without considering diverse design factors. One essential design principle is the elegant integration between digital and physical learning spaces. This allows learning experiences to flow between physical and digital spaces while allowing the smart classroom to extend beyond a defined physical space and set time.

The following checklist offers an overview of design criteria for future-focused smart classrooms. This readiness checklist can be used as a conversation guide to help design teams consider general criteria for success when planning smart classroom initiatives. It should also be customized to meet particular design needs and requirements you are pursuing.

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