August 12, 2015
Texas Tech University is working to ensure all students and faculty have access to updated facilities and technology, thanks to its General Purpose Classrooms project.
The General Purpose Classroom (GPC) project is designed to serve the entire Texas Tech community by updating classrooms with a wide range of equipment and resources. The initiative began in 2010 and has grown due to its popularity and continued positive feedback from faculty, students and staff. There are a total of 44 GPCs in six buildings spanning the Texas Tech campus: Agricultural Sciences, Holden Hall, Human Sciences, Mathematics, Media & Communication and Science.
“When looking for rooms to renovate, we look into rooms that are underutilized or in disrepair and will provide the greatest impact to the Texas Tech community if renovated,” said Patricia Vitela, assistant managing director for Academic Support and Facilities Resources. “We work diligently to ensure the new space will provide an improved, up-to-date teaching and learning environment for the Texas Tech community. Surveys are also frequently used to not only gauge the use of existing General Purpose Classrooms, but to determine needs and seek feedback from the Texas Tech community that can influence future projects.”
According to the project’s website, a space analysis was completed for all classrooms and meeting rooms on campus. The analysis included condition, usage, location and use by the home department. Upon review, rooms were chosen that were in poor condition and could potentially be used by multiple departments on campus.
GPCs are centrally scheduled, which means they can be used for a variety of disciplines. This improves use and provides an appropriate academic space for all course-related activities, Vitela said. Special attention also is paid to ensure the rooms are up to current building codes and in compliance with ADA guidelines.
“We want to help improve the experience of those with disabilities on our campus, and ensure that our academic spaces can meet their needs as much as possible,” Vitela said. “All GPC classrooms are ADA accessible, have assistive listening devices and are equipped with ADA desks or stations.”
Classroom Technology Services ensures all GPCs have the most current technology. Standards include a Dell computer with BluRay player, projector with motorized screen, Polycom phone, Intellimonitors, interactive display, ceiling speakers, podium and wireless microphones for sound reinforcement & ADA assisted listening, wireless keyboard/mouse, and both HDMI and VGA laptop connections.
Some rooms also are equipped with more specialized equipment based on instructional demand. Examples of this include document cameras, additional flat-screen television displays and interactive video conferencing equipment.
“The technology is fantastic,” said Todd Chambers, associate dean for undergraduate affairs and a professor in the College of Media & Communication who has taught in GPCs for three years. “The presentation system allows a teacher to switch between several multimedia options. It really opens up the opportunities to create different types of learning experiences for the students. I think it’s definitely helped the students because the sound system, visual presentation system and multimedia presentation technologies allow for students in all sections of a room to clearly see and hear what’s happening.”
Instructors overwhelmed by the technology need not fear, Chambers said.
“One of advantages of the GPC is the technology support,” he explained. “Unfortunately, you don’t get a chance to interact with the technology support staff unless there is a problem. Any time I’ve had an issue with technology or access to a GPC, the response time has been almost immediate. Every member of the staff has demonstrated professionalism and expertise — the problems get solved quickly.”
The furniture in each room is chosen based on functionality, size of the room and pedagogical need. Neutral color schemes are selected, and rooms are carpeted to help dampen sound interference. Large dry erase boards are installed to provide ample space for students and instructors to write. Each room is carefully checked each week for any maintenance needs. This helps maintain the quality of not only the physical room, but the technology as well.
“We are also in the process of implementing a new global lock system on all of our GPCs, which helps not only increase security, but allow for greater customization,” Vitela said. “Instructors access the classrooms using their university IDs, and can determine whether or not they would like the room locked or unlocked during their class time. One swipe of their ID will unlock the door for a short amount of time to allow entry before locking back, and two swipes of their ID will leave the door unlocked for the duration of the class period. The new global door locks can also be programmed and controlled remotely, which not only saves significant time and resources, but also helps provide back-up in case of emergency.”
Anyone interested in having a room become a General Purpose Classroom can submit information about the room and the department managing it to Academic Support and Facilities Resources for analysis at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. For construction updates and more on the project, follow the GPC Blog.
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