7 lessons learned when a college overhauled its computer lab

Collaborate with faculty and share what you learn

As students carry more connected devices, many colleges are renovating their computer labs into more modern spaces.

Krissy Lukens, director of academic technology at St. Norbert College, and Scott Ryan, learning spaces technologist at the institution, wrote about their recent computer lab overhaul in Campus Technology.

At St. Norbert, IT staff and computer science faculty took advantage of a planned computer lab renovation as an opportunity for a broader redesign. Together, the teams brainstormed a list of requirements for the future space based on how the rooms would be used, such as:

  • Tables that could accommodate teams of four people;
  • Whiteboards on each wall;
  • Small whiteboards for individual use; and
  • Space for instructors to comfortably move around the room.

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The updated lab supports three modes:

  • Presentation, for instructors to demonstrate to the full class simultaneously;
  • Collaboration, for students to work independently while viewing the instructor's screen; and
  • Open lab, for students to work independently without anything on the main screens.

The new space also includes raised flooring that allows for easy access to wiring, as well as modular furniture that users can reconfigure to fit their needs. The space also includes features that allow students to work on their own devices, which helps students and instructors focus on the course material.

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Lessons learned

Lukens and Ryan shared several lessons they learned over the course of the renovation, including:

  1. Collaborate with faculty;
  2. Always have replacement laptops handy to loan out in class;
  3. Make it easy for students to download and access require software;
  4. Expect the unexpected when it comes to new technology and software;
  5. Work with an integrator who can troubleshoot and provide technology recommendations;
  6. Prepare for small issues as students and instructors adjust to the new space;
  7. Commit to providing IT support for users;
  8. Keep the lab's physical space considerations in mind; and
  9. Share what you learn across campus.

(Lukens/Ryan, Campus Technology, 3/15)

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