UCI News

New school of thought

First ‘active learning’ building in California to open at UCI

September 18, 2018
New school of thought
Students collaborate on a question at one of the pods in instructor Jacqui Lewis’ abnormal psychology class – the first held in UCI’s new Anteater Learning Pavilion. Steve Zylius / UCI

Irvine, Calif., Sept. 18, 2018 – If it’s been a while since you were in college, the rules are changing: Students may now be required to talk to each other, check their cellphones or trade notes. Professors often no longer lecture from a podium. It’s all part of active learning, which flips traditional education on its head to maximize collaboration. 

Next Tuesday, the state’s first building entirely devoted to active learning will open at the University of California, Irvine. The Anteater Learning Pavilion adds much-needed classroom space to the fast-growing campus – and is wired for 21st-century education.

“The heart of everything that UCI does is to help all our students learn and flourish,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “This magnificent facility will do just that for generations to come.”

The 65,000-square-foot Anteater Learning Pavilion’s 15 smart classrooms and auditoriums feature flexible furniture, multiple writing surfaces and wireless projection to optimize active learning. Steve Zylius / UCI

The 65,000-plus-square-foot structure features flexible furniture, multiple writing surfaces and wireless projection to optimize active learning. In 15 smart classrooms and auditoriums, old-school audiovisual equipment has been replaced by sleek computer screens on every wall and desk. Each can be linked to from laptop or mobile devices. Seats swivel for group exercises.

In abnormal psychology courses, for example, teams of students use brain imaging to explore schizophrenia. In American history, they create an online frontier town from the 1800s. And in science communications, they calculate how many elephants it would take to raise sea levels, compared to glacier melt.

“Many of our faculty no longer expect – or want – students to simply listen to lectures, take notes and memorize facts,” said Michael Dennin, vice provost for teaching and learning. “In order for our students to be prepared for a complicated and competitive world, they have to be ready to understand and demonstrate processes, analyze arguments and apply what they’ve learned to real-world situations.”

Attendees at the official opening can experience active learning too – including wireless exercises, group quizzes and digital storytelling – via iClickers, Canvas and additional tools.

Research shows that such engaged learning can help undergraduates – particularly first-generation and those belonging to underrepresented minorities – retain knowledge better, earn higher grades and gain lifelong skills.

While active learning programs elsewhere largely focus on science and engineering, UCI’s spans multiple disciplines – from dance, history and language to neurobiology, psychology, chemistry and more.

The only other campus building wholly devoted to active learning is at Oregon State University, and a handful of colleges across the U.S. have numerous classrooms. UCI’s $67 million complex was constructed with $62 million in external financing and $5 million from campus coffers.

To receive priority to teach in the new building, instructors are required to complete an eight-week certification program on active learning techniques and technologies.

Demand for the training is high, with a long waiting list.

Media interested in attending the opening of the Anteater Learning Pavilion can contact Janet Wilson at janethw@uci.edu or 949-824-3969.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

Media access: Radio programs/stations may, for a fee, use an on-campus ISDN line to interview UCI faculty and experts, subject to availability and university approval. For more UCI news, visit news.uci.edu. Additional resources for journalists may be found at communications.uci.edu/for-journalists.