2014 Award for Innovation in Instructional Technologies

Techonolgy Enabled Active Learning Classrooms at Montana State University
Dr. Marilyn Lockhart, Director of the Center for Faculty Excellence; Dr. David Single, Associate Provost; Facilities Management Department team members; Information Technology Department team members; Ritchie Boyd, Academic Technology Specialist; Lindsey Jackson, Graduate Student

Project website

Project Overview

Montana State University (MSU) created two Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) Classrooms to increase student success and decrease student course DFW rates (grades of D, F, and withdrawals). The design of the rooms consists of five round tables seven feet in diameter that can accommodate three teams of three students for a total of nine students at a table; computer connections for each team; monitors for each table; and an instructor work station located in the middle of the room.

Based on active learning theories, students work together in small groups to engage with each other and course content. Faculty move throughout the room to assist students. Students can use laptops, tablets, or smart phones to connect to flat-panel monitors close to their tables to showcase work. Faculty can display the team’s work to all monitors in the room or present from their own desktop computer, laptop, or document camera.

The TEAL classrooms were developed and implemented by a cross-functional team with assistance from two other Universities who had designed similar classrooms. The members of the cross-functional team during the planning and renovation steps included staff from various academic support departments, faculty at the institution, a graduate student, an external architect, individuals from the Information Technology Center, individuals from the Registrar’s Office, and faculty that would teach in the classroom. The team worked to identify effective room design and the specific technology needs of students and faculty. The director of the Center for Faculty Excellence also held meetings with future TEAL classroom faculty on active learning and technology integration in the classroom.

Student Impact

MSU’s first TEAL classroom opened spring 2013 and a second room opened fall semester of the same year. During spring 2013, 380 undergraduate students with majors in seven colleges enrolled in 14 classes. These classes included four sections of introductory statistics, three sections of introductory algebra, two education classes, and one section each of horticulture, engineering, political science, chemistry, and geography. For fall 2013, 930 undergraduates enrolled in 24 classes, with the majority of the increase being in introductory algebra and statistics classes. Similar enrollments have continued each semester.

Student success rates in the introductory algebra and statistics classes increased by 20% from prior semesters in non-TEAL classrooms. At the end of each semester, students and faculty complete surveys that assess the impact of the room on learning the content of the course and development of skills that can be used beyond the classroom. The vast majority of survey responses from students and faculty report positive outcomes in all areas. Students and faculty alike cite student engagement and collaboration as an important outcome of the innovative design. From the first and second semesters of offering classes in the room, most striking of the course-related questions were positive student responses of 81% to “increases my excitement to learn,” 91% to “encourages my active participation,” 94% to “promotes discussion,” and 93% to “facilitates multiple types of learning activities.”

Notable of the development of skills beyond the classroom category were positive responses of 85% to “helps me develop confidence working in small groups” and 79% to “encourages me to create new ideas, products or ways of understanding.” At the completion of the spring 2013 semester, student success rates (grades at C and above) of 81% occurred in Algebra sections taught in the TEAL room as compared to 63% taught in non-TEAL rooms. Success rates of Algebra classes for the previous six semesters, all held in traditional classrooms, had been 56%. Statistic classes revealed similar outcomes, with a success rate of 86% in TEAL rooms and 65% in non-TEAL rooms. Success rates of Algebra classes for the previous semesters had been 56%.