What is a Master Classroom?
Students and faculty at Middle Tennessee State University are exploring new ways of teaching and learning in "master classrooms." These specially-equipped classrooms combine powerful computing, effective display, and the wealth of information available through networks to provide a more flexible and exciting learning environment that accommodates different teaching and learning styles. Studies show that students tend to retain more as well as learn faster if they see, hear, and interact during the learning process. Master classrooms help provide these pathways for learning.
The concept of the master classroom was developed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by Kathryn Conway. Conway defines the master classroom as a specially-equipped classroom that provides a wide range of computer, media, projection, communication, and control capabilities, including connection to the campus network. The master classroom differs from a computer classroom in that it usually does not have individual computers for each student, but rather has a single computer that can be used by an instructor or student(s) for presentations, simulations, on-line access, and multimedia.
Master Classroom Support
Client Services has played a vital role in the development of MTSU's master classrooms. These rooms are specially-equipped with a wide range of computer, media, projection, communication, and control capabilities. Specialists from this area continue to provide technical support, maintenance, and faculty training for the master classroom equipment. The area also continues to assist with the development of new master classrooms on campus.
Client Services focuses on microcomputer hardware and software procurement, installation, maintenance, and support as well as support for the growing number of MTSU's master classrooms. Client Services provides assistance with microcomputer hardware and software including consultation and training, purchase recommendations, installation, technical assistance with problems, and repair. The specialists install network cards and interface software for and regularly install software purchased through MTSU's site license agreements.
Our staff is mobile and on-call, responding to users' questions, problems, and needs quickly and efficiently.
Uses of the Master Classroom
The uses of the instructor-driven master classroom are limited only the faculty's creativity. Pre-packaged instructional materials are available, or faculty can develop materials themselves. Presentation software can be used to organize and present lecture notes, which can easily be enhanced with clip art and symbols. Faculty can spend class time facing the students rather than the chalkboard and increase the lecture's organization and legibility. Many classroom applications can be derived from word processing, spreadsheet, statistical, and database software. An English professor may use a word processing package to demonstrate sentence structure or an accounting professor may use spreadsheet software to show students how to calculate annuities. A biology professor may use an authoring program to create an application incorporating animation, still photos, and a movie to demonstrate the stages of mitosis.
Room Renovation & Development
Designing the master classrooms requires consideration of elements such as heating, cooling, power supply, lighting, acoustics, security, networking, furniture, fixtures, and equipment. The following alterations and enhancements prepare the chosen classrooms to become MTSU master classrooms:
- Dimmable lighting with controls near the instructor's station and door
- Whiteboards to replace chalkboards
- Power outlets for all equipment
- Network connections
- Walls repaired and painted
- Carpeting for floor
- Special furnishings for instructor's station and equipment
Master Classroom Equipment
MTSU's master classrooms contain a wide variety of audio/visual media for use by faculty and students. The typical room has the following equipment:
- A teacher's station with a multimedia PC or Macintosh Power PC
- Productivity, authoring, presentation, and communications software
- Access to the campus network and Internet
- A visual presenter for viewing documents, 3-D objects, transparencies, and slides
- An equipment rack with an audio receiver
- A projection screen
- A ceiling-mounted multi-scan video/data projector
- Television monitors
- A single remote unit that controls each of these components as well as the lighting system
In addition to this equipment, each room is customized to fit a department's needs.
The History of MTSU's Master Classrooms
MTSU's Information Technology Division (ITD) initiated the master classroom project on campus and directed its implementation and development. Planning of master classrooms at MTSU proceeded with support from both administration and faculty. Funds were allocated for equipment, software, and room preparations, as well as for faculty training and grants.
Master classroom committees were formed in each college of the University to work with ITD to identify the equipment and software that would best meet the college's needs as well as choose the location of the master classroom for that college.
Additional master classrooms continue to be developed, with individual departments contributing to their design and funding. As of January 2016, MTSU has over 400 master classrooms in six colleges.
The capacities of the classrooms range from 25 - 350.
The average cost of the equipment and room renovations has been $30,000-$35,000 per master classroom. ITD continues to administer and support the master classrooms and provides faculty training, technical support, and maintenance.
The Future of Master Classrooms
Perhaps in the not too distant future there won't be a need for a term "master classroom" on the MTSU campus because the standard classroom will be a master classroom. Until this happens, our goal is to constantly improve and upgrade not only the hardware and software in the master classrooms, but also the ability of our faculty members to effectively use instructional technologies in their teaching.
Maintenance & Upgrades
Maintaining and upgrading master classrooms is an ongoing process. All equipment in the master classrooms is tested weekly to insure that it is operating properly. In addition, staff are available to help if faculty have an equipment problem during a class.
Through daily research, ITD staff investigate new equipment, hardware, and software as well as improvements for the way existing equipment is used. Faculty suggestions also play a significant part in determining maintenance and upgrade needs.
The use of the master classrooms is evaluated every semester by faculty and students, who are encouraged to provide suggestions for improvements. Feedback from the faculty includes what equipment they use and how often, equipment reliability and ease of use, and the effect of instructional technology on their presentation of materials and their students' comprehension of materials.
MTSU students are asked questions such as
- are you more likely to take future classes in a master classroom?
- how much did the technology enhance your interest in the course?
- how much did the technology influenc your comprehension of the subject matter?
The results are compiled and taken into consideration for training, maintenance, and upgrades of current master classrooms. Suggestions are also kept on file as reference material for the construction of new master classrooms.