Improving the Student Experience
On January 5th, students at the UIC College of Medicine began working in a newly renovated state-of-the-art Learning Center.
The center is housed on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th floors of the College of Medicine West Tower Building. Including a technologically sophisticated transformation, the College of Medicine Learning Center now exists to enhance the intellectual environment, providing students with a facility that encourages team based learning unlike any other areas available to students before.
“There was a long-standing need for new learning spaces,” explained Abbas Hyderi, MD, the associate dean for curriculum at the College of Medicine. Hyderi explained that the auditoriums and classrooms were out-of-date, and there were not dedicated spaces for individual or small group study.
Evidence on learning theory has demonstrated that passive lecturing without student engagement leads to poor retention and a reduced ability for a students to apply what they’ve learned, Hyderi said. So modern teaching strategies aim to more actively engage students in problem solving exercises or small group activities.
The new space was designed with interactive instruction in mind. One 250-seat auditorium was completely updated and another was split into two 110-seat lecture rooms. There are now 18 small group classrooms with modern upgrades, including tables that can accommodate teams of 6 or 7 students. Audiovisual systems have been upgraded to allow one faculty member to teach students in two of the smaller classrooms, Hyderi said. Three of the rooms were outfitted with video recording equipment so that a student participating in a mock patient interaction can be recorded for faculty to assess later.
Students played an active role in redesigning the space. During the 2-year planning process, 6 students from 3 classes served on the planning committee. All students were asked to fill out surveys about furniture selections and other details of the renovation, said Kathleen Kashima, senior associate dean of students. The student representatives also collected feedback from classmates.
Karl Becker, a 3rd year medical student and student representative on the committee, explained that there was very little room for student use in the old space. Lighting and temperature control were less than optimal. For example, in one auditorium windows were bricked up so students sometimes sat through hours of lectures without any natural light, Becker said.
“It was in a condition that didn’t make anyone want to spend time there,” he said. But the new learning center has been remodeled to be more comfortable and more student-centric. Heating, cooling, and lighting systems were upgraded. A lounge and kitchen were added for student use. Individual and group study areas also were created; and a dedicated office was built for student organizations.
“It’s a newer, cleaner more enjoyable environment to be in,” said Becker. He added that the new space makes the college more attractive to applicants. The testing space also was improved. Prior to the renovations, Hyderi noted that there wasn’t enough space to allow the 200 students in each class to undergo computer-based testing simultaneously. But the new Learning Center has a space that can be easily converted to allow all students to be tested simultaneously. “It will be the center stage for our students to have an incredible learning experience,” Kashima said.