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Interactive classrooms keep students' attention

Greenlaw 101 was renovated to become the University’s first interactive lecture hall.

Moveable tables and chairs replaced the classroom's fixed stadium seating to help students interact with instructors. Course contents will be digitally shown on screens hanging along the walls.

The completed classroom, which is being used for the first time this semester, cost an estimated $314,886.

Devin Hubbard, a biomedical engineering lecturer, said he loves the classroom because it helps him employ interactive teaching.

Hubbard said in a traditional, auditorium-style classroom, students seated in the front rows get all the attention from the professors. He said Greenlaw 101 helps shift instructors' attention to students because instructors can move throughout the classroom and interact with students.

“The difference between Greenlaw 101 and a traditional classroom is the layout of Greenlaw 101 intentionally... encourages an interactive environment with the students and the faculty member teaching,” Hubbard said.

Junior physics student Quique Toloza said the new classroom design helps him stay focused and engaged with professors.

“I get bored in traditional classrooms, big lecture halls, like they are boring. It’s easy to fall asleep and to get distracted," Toloza said. “And this one, it’s easier to follow the professor. It’s nice to sit with people like that — it’s a lot more comfortable."

Junior biology student Alex Wilson said the classroom helps his instructor move around and interact with students. 

“I like that you can see, pretty much from any points of the room, the lecture slides," Wilson said. "You know, you don’t have to pay attention to the front all the time.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Biomedical Engineering is going to use the basement space of Phillips Hall for additional engineering laboratories and classrooms for the expanding department.

The space will be divided into two lab areas with a flexible classroom style similar to that of Greenlaw 101.

Hubbard said the new facilities are intended to accommodate the increasing number of students in the biomedical engineering program, which is now a joint program between UNC and N.C. State University. He said the program will eventually increase its size to around 300 students in the next few years.

He said the renovations will begin in December so that the project will not be “intrusive" to students. It is estimated to be completed by the fall semester of 2016.

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