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Case studies

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As part of the £520 million investment in transforming the University campus three lecture theatres have been redesigned to facilitate a more collaborative approach to teaching and learning: Roger Stevens Lecture Theatre 8, Mechanical Engineering Lecture Theatre B, and the Worsley Dental Lecture Theatre. Watch the YouTube clip to see the transformation take place.


These new lecture theatres have been redesigned to enable students to sit and work together in groups of 3-5. Greater access to technology and a redesign of the seating layout facilitates a more active and inclusive approach to learning. There is a strong evidence base in the educational research literature linking active learning to higher levels of student engagement (Kolb & Kolb, 2005).  This new design does not  prevent academic teaching staff continuing to deliver traditional lectures.

Educational research casts doubt over whether the traditional didactic 'lecture' is the most effective way for students to learn (Bligh, 1972; Andresen, 1988: Kolb & Kolb, 2005). The literature has reconceived teaching and learning in recent years: moving from knowledge-transfer modes of teaching to more interactive approaches which re-position the student as ‘an active participant in the learning process.' (Kolb & Kolb, 2005, p.4.)


These new learning spaces enable lecturers to use a more interactive and collaborative approach to facilitating learning in large groups. This initiative is part of the implementation of the University Digital Strategy for Student Education and builds on studies into spaces for effective learning that have taken place across the UK HE sector (JISC, 2006).


Taking into account the changing landscape, universities are not only modelling new, participatory pedagogies (JISC, 2006), they are also redesigning their teaching spaces to facilitate collaborative learning and more innovative use of technology, factors which have been shown to support and promote active, flexible and cooperative learning (Educause, 2014). The pedagogical rationale underpinning this has been articulated as follows:


‘The design of a learning space […] sets expectations and establishes the roles of instructor and student. […An] active learning setting decentralizes the teaching and learning, creating a new dynamic that emphasizes student responsibility and participation in learning.' (Educause, 2014)


The intention is not to herald the end of the traditional lecture, but rather to acknowledge that the methods we use to teach must be fit for purpose. The lecture theatres were redesigned with a clear educational purpose and embody JISC’s set of design principles, that space should be:


  • ‘Flexible - to accommodate both current and evolving pedagogies
  • Future-proofed - to enable space to be re-allocated and reconfigured
  • Bold - to look beyond tried and tested technologies and pedagogies
  • Creative - to energise and inspire learners and tutors
  • Supportive - to develop the potential of all learners
  • Enterprising - to make each space capable of supporting different purposes’ (JISC, 2006)


In short, the redesigned lecture theatres enable a flipped learning pedagogy, which supports creativity, problem-solving, conceptual understanding, discussion, and active learning. In this way, they contribute more effectively to the development of a wider skill set amongst students than do the activities which can take place in traditional tiered lecture theatres, whilst supporting staff to broaden their teaching repertoires by developing a range of active and inclusive pedagogies.





The redesigned spaces contain ‘pods’ in which 3 to 5 students can sit together around a desk space. These pods create the sense of a cluster to facilitate group discussion and collaborative learning. Each 'pod' contains a networked Lenovo ThinkPad which is similar to a normal laptop but can be used as a tablet with a touch screen and stylus. Students can log in using their University username and password and access online resources and contribute to activities within the VLE. A microphone is also installed in each pod to support plenary discussion and easier communication between the students and the lecturer.


The room layout has been designed to ensure good viewing angles to the front of the teaching spaces, where the lecturer can project content from the students’ ThinkPad devices onto a single teaching wall. A large interactive NEC MultiSync Display allows the lecturer to write on this whiteboard whilst facing the students and this projected image can be recorded via lecture capture. Lecturers can access the Notebook Software (Version 11) on their own desktops to plan and prepare digital content to be used in the lectures on the MultiSync Display. This software is also available for students to use on the ThinkPad devices. In addition, each lectern PC and all ThinkPad devices can launch the DisplayNote software. This mirroring, real-time collaboration software enables students to interact and annotate over digital resources using the ThinkPad devices. Students can annotate over their work and save these notes to their own file storage area. A lecturer can use DisplayNote to view various thumbnails of students' work side-by-side and even add to students' work synchronously.


Research into staff and student perceptions of teaching and learning in these redesigned learning spaces is ongoing. You can listen to academic lecturing staff talk about their experiences using these spaces in the following presentations. These are edits from an original presentation delivered for the Student Education Conference of 2017 entitled Rethinking Lectures: Sharing Stories on Innovative Teaching Practice in the Redesigned Lecture Theatres.




A series of workshops and drop-in sessions continue to be available for colleagues who wish to know more about the technology and pedagogical advantages of using these redesigned learning spaces.


Workshops: The workshops aim to provide an introduction to the technology in the lecture theatres so that academic teaching staff know how to take advantage of the technology to promote a collaborative approach to teaching and learning. Book your place.


Drop-in Sessions: In addition, any member of staff can drop-in to the sessions advertised by Organisational Development and Professional Learning. There will be an opportunity to ask technical questions and get a hands-on feel for the hardware and software available at the lectern and the student pods. There is no need to book a place. Simply turn up at any point during the days and times advertised.


Online Resource: You can  self-enrol on a VLE Organisation entitled: Lecture Theatre Redesign where you can find announcements, case studies and support documentation. Alternatively, email to get enrolled.


Noticeboard Adverts: Support for Redesigned Lecture Theatres September 2017


Technical Guide: Academic Staff seeking technical advice will find the following guides useful:

Also, during the first weeks of term Facilities Support Staff will be available in the lecture theatres before any teaching session to provide technical support.
Contact for further information.


DisplayNote: tutorials are available online or you can contact for further support.