Utah State University is a land grant, public research university with its 400-acre main campus located in Logan, 80 miles northeast of Salt Lake City. Founded in 1888, the university fosters principles of strong academics, rich diversity, and serving the public through learning, discovery, and engagement.
Location Logan, Utah
Number of People Served Nealy 30,000 students (a number that includes those who attend classes at regional campuses and through distance learning).
Sales Representative Contact Information Jeff Riley, Source Four
Dealer Contact Information Pilar Schuman, CCGHowells
Utah State University has been offering distance learning for a very long time. As a land grant university, the institution takes seriously its repsonsibility to promote higher education to people of all classes and walk of life, expecially rural life.
One hundred years ago, that mission meant sending instructors to all corners of the state by train. Today, distance learning is achieved via technology -- about 300 USU classes are broadcast each week. The technology has come a long way and is still evolving, according to Brandon Reame, Director of Learning Environments for izzy+.
"izzy+ and USU are working together to flip the distance learning experience," Reame says. "Traditional distance education is largely one directional, with a central classroom broadcasting its content to remote locations. But many areas, like foreign language, require peer-to-peer interaction during class, so that needed to be addressed."
Robby Sproul, a Technical Professional at USU, was Reame's primary USU contact on the project. Sproul is responsible for researching and acquiring new technology, designing distance learning classrooms, and training and troubleshooting, as needed.
"The classroom setup is really improtant," Sproul says, mentioning the many elements, from screen sizes and camera placement to where people sit and how they interact with the equipment and one another.
USU currently has 40 classrooms that are video-conference equipped, and Sproul is constantly working to make design improvements as new classrooms are created. In planning the new izzy+ furnished room, Sproul had several goals.
"We wanted to make a more engaging and collaborative room, with more flexibility for different teaching styles," Sproul says. "We also wanted to make the room more comfortable for both the students in the room and those distance learning."
The flexibility and mobility of the izzy+ furnture was key, Sproul says, because teaching style change and classroom configuration impacts student engagement and collaboration.
"We decided to put the furniture and technology in positions that allow the instructors to more out from behind the podium and bring them closer to all of the students, " Sproul says. "In this space the instructors essentially become untethered. They're able to connect with all the students and use the technology at the same time. It's a different way of thinking about teaching, with the instructor more in the middle of the space."
Sproul chose Dewey Help Desks, Connection Carts, and Podiums by Fixtures Furniture. The Help Desks not only hold equipment, but Sproul says instructors like that they're easy to adjust for height and reorient in the room as needed. Connection Carts make monitors easy to move and view, and also supply white boards for interactive class and group work. Both the Webster seating and Dewey tables by Fixtures Furniture are on caster for extra mobility and flexibility.
"I like that the furniture is solid, but easy to move," Sproul says. "The tables have neoprene edges for extra durability when you move them and push them together, and i like the look, too. Instructors like the white boards, and the ability to move them around so all students can see, or move them near pods for group work."
The technology and furniture work together to notably impact the student's learning experience.
"One big difference of this room is that it allows us to put students who are there in pods, and then have the distance students join these groups for projects rather than form their own group," Sproul explains. "The distance students feel more connected and a part of things -- it enhances the learning experience for them. It also pushes the Logan students to think beyond their classroom."
Reame is also pleased with the results.
"We're taking the flipped classroom to a whole new level by leveraging really great technology that allows students to work face to face regardless of their location," he says. "We partnered with CISCO to develop easy-to-use, video conference technology that allows groups to work face to face with students in dozens of remote areas, simultaneously during class. And by using modular furniture, this room can function as a highly collaborative distance learning room, or within minutes be rearranged to support a more traditional lecture."