The Fun in Blended Learning Environments

Jenny Gallow

Over the past two summers I have had the joy of working with Northwest Local Schools to design blended learning labs at Northwest and Colerain High Schools.  Blended learning incorporates online study to enhance the student experience and promotes student centered learning.  This was an exciting opportunity as it was the first time that I had worked with a client to design this specific type of learning environment.  Both schools were looking at renovating a portion of an existing floor into technology rich environments.

We wanted the new environment to support the blended learning delivery of education as well as make a statement with the design.   This allows the students who are in the blended learning labs to know that they are in a “different” environment from the rest of the school.   The design team wanted the spaces to have a more collegiate and sophisticated feel.  Both school’s blended learning labs include a computer lab with fifty fixed, hard-wired computers.  This is the area where lecture and online learning take place.  There are small group rooms adjacent to the fixed blended labs which allow small groups to break out to develop concepts and work on group projects.  The key to the success of these small group rooms is to create agile spaces with a variety of seating options.  All the furniture is on casters and is easily moved to support the work that needs to take place depending on the subject matter.  Providing soft seating in these spaces also allows for more informal interaction.  We were able to create teacher workrooms based on these same principals to allow teacher interaction and support.

One of my favorite things about being an Interior Designer is working with the client to solve problems and to create beautiful spaces that make the delivery of education fun and exciting.   I have attended open houses at Northwest and Colerain High Schools within the past few weeks.  At each school there was a presentation in the blended learning lab from the instructors who deliver this type of education every day.  It was exciting for me to see the enthusiasm and passion of these instructors.  They were talking about how the students are more engaged and how they are learning skills that will make the transition into college seamless.  They are able to use technology to track a student’s understanding of concepts so no one “falls through the cracks”.  It was also fun for me to hear about all the ways in which the students and staff were using the technologies and tools that were provided in these labs.  I realize that there are many factors that contribute to the success of these new labs, but it was apparent to me that the design of the environment is the catalyst that provides the opportunity for blended learning.  I can’t wait to work on my next innovative, engaging educational environment!

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