- 117 Osmond speaks to university learning of the past.
- The physical layout positions all attention forward toward a singular lecturer.
- The acoustics support sound delivery from the front, and the available electrical and display space are also positioned in the front with a singular lecturer.
- The space is not constructed for passive (students using laptops for notes) or active (students using integrated web-based materials during class) digital learning experiences.
- This is not a collaborative learning environment, and due to physical layout, further threatens students’ sense of safe mobility and personal, private space.
Background-History, Location, Quick Facts
The Osmond Lab is a multipurpose building with a gross area of 137,760 square feet. Built in 1940, the facilities web page lists the building in “poor” condition. It seats approximately 150, 117 Osmond is heavily used for science lectures although other disciplines do use the space.
The Osmond Laboratory is centrally located on campus near the HUB and generally accessible for students and faculty who walk or ride CAT buses to campus
The use of film was not observed nor was it a part of student interview comments. Verbal communication from a central lecturer was the most common format. Shared technology for student groups would not be possible with the current physical configuration. Students cannot move the seats, nor turn around in them. Students cannot move through a row of seats without all other students standing. Consequently, integration of technology in this space would likely require a floor plan change. The space does have ‘old school’ technology: the blackboard.
Student comments regarding health and safety issues were unanticipated. An observer entering the room will certainly notice the extreme slope; however, through the interview process we did not anticipate the level of discomfort that students would communicate regarding ease of movement and violations of personal space due to the cramped, fixed seating. Further, the ‘vertigo effect’ cannot be underestimated. This physical aspect appears to have a negative psychological impact on professors and students in the space. All seem ‘to settle’ knowing that teaching and learning opportunities will be limited. If the adage is true, ‘we are only as strong as our weakest link’, 117 Osmond does not portray what learning can be at Penn State.
Long term, a physical redesign of the space is needed with changes to the seating that allows ease of access and exit for learners, power supplied to individual seating areas as a part of learning styles that now use digital electronics as essential note-taking apparatus, and a redesign of physical slope and acoustics.
In the short term, seating could be added immediately outside of the lecture hall for students to confer immediately before or following classes and for professors to meet with students when classes are changing.
Seven students contributed to this review and offered to include their stories. The following quoted sections reflect ‘lived’ experiences in 117 Osmond.
… When walking down the stairs, there is a genuine fear that you may fall–and land all the way at the bottom in a matter of seconds. The steps are steep, and the tiered seating doesn’t help much either. When watching the lecture, I feel as though vertigo is setting in. It is incredibly hard to concentrate because you are constantly looking down. It is so bad that it makes you not even want to go to class.
…Speaking truthfully, I was always afraid that navigating to an empty seat would result in me tumbling, most likely fatally, down to ground. Given that it is predominantly physics classes being taught in there, it almost seems cute that they would use a room that makes you blatantly aware of the gravity acting on you before you even have the chance to sit down.
… Personally I do not care for this classroom at all. To put it bluntly, it is my least favorite classroom on the entirety of campus. I got to the point where I would show up early and grab a seat along the aisle just for the extra leg room.
… When thinking of 117 Osmond, poor thoughts and feelings immediately come to mind. It is a terrible classroom, and very unpleasant to be in. There is a type of reverberation of whomever is talking, and it makes it difficult to understand.
… Having such a steep slope to the seating gave a sense of distance from the professor. Therefore, I always found myself less engaged and more likely to attenuate to something other than the lecture material. I think looking down on the professor and not being eye level with the professor contributed to the lack of engagement I felt from the class.
… If someone told me I had to go there, I would think,oh man, the cliff classroom