WMU News

New virtual lab allows teachers to try out techniques

April 6, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- University instructors who want to try out new teaching methods or techniques utilizing technology will be able to do so before they actually get in the classroom, thanks to a new virtual lab opening up at Western Michigan University's Center for Teaching and Learning.

The Virtual Learning Laboratory, located in Room 3310 of Sangren Hall, is designed to train faculty to integrate technology into their teaching and allow them to experience different learning environments. The center will unveil the lab at an open house Friday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to Dr. Peter Saunders, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, the laboratory contains a functional and experimental design that will allow professors to hone their teaching skills with and without technology. Adjacent to the center's new offices in Rooms 3312 and 3314 of Sangren Hall, the lab features furniture on wheels and is designed to allow professors to try alternate classroom layouts that facilitate different learning styles. These layouts range from the traditional, directive style to a collaborative style that involves high levels of student interaction.

"I want professors to come and see the potential for combining both their function as 'sage on the stage' with that of 'guide on the side,' " says Saunders. "The virtual lab will give faculty an opportunity to help their learners take on more of the responsibility for their own education."

The lab was established in accordance with WMU President Elson S. Floyd's initiative for the University to adopt ubiquitous computing and a campus that embraces technology as an aid in learning. Ubiquitous computing is the ability to support computer-assisted learning across the campus, as well as globally.

Funding for the lab, which cost $150,000, was provided by WMU's Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The center will honor the provost, Dr. Timothy Light, at the lab's open house.

"Tim's role in the development of the center was crucial," notes Saunders. "He really made the dream a reality and created a wonderful legacy of education at Western."

Designed by Steelcase Inc. of Grand Rapids and Jo Morrisson of WMU's Office of Campus Facilities, the laboratory and the center's new offices illustrate how learning and work spaces can fuse into one.

Faculty can access the new Virtual Learning Laboratory by making an appointment with the Center for Teaching and Learning. For more information, contact Saunders at (616) 387-5305 or <peter.saunders@wmich.edu>.

Media contact: Marie Lee, 616 387-8400, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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