The Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering has announced plans for an exciting new student program headquartered on the fourth floor of the Whitaker building. Known as the BME Learning Commons, the program has three central features. The first is the renovation of the building’s current faculty and staff lounge into a flexible, social learning environment for BME students. The second is the creation of a range of student-run programs to drive collaboration and advance learning. The third and final piece of the program is that students will turn this vision into a reality by working in “scrum teams”, adopting a modified version of the agile management methodology, which was first developed in the software development industry. The scrum methodology is being adopted more widely in other industries these days, and it is particularly well suited for managing projects with rapidly changing or highly emergent needs, such as the Learning Commons.
“The traditional idea of a ‘commons’ is a place where people go to meet their neighbors and hold gatherings, and we plan to apply this concept to the BME student experience,” said Joe Le Doux Ph.D., The Executive Director of Learning and Student Experience, who is spearheading the program. “This will be a place where BMEs of all ages, levels, skills, and interests can meet, talk, share ideas, and work together on common projects.”
The $750,000 renovation will completely transform the space based on the day-to-day needs of BME students. The walls will be painted with “IDEA paint”, turning them into giant whiteboards, while rolling whiteboards will enable quick partitioning of the space to support team work. Multiple terminals will be available that connect to high speed campus servers, and collaborative spaces will provide abundant opportunities for students to engage and share their digital information with each other quickly and seamlessly.
“The design of physical spaces for learning is critical because, if done well, they can motivate students to be agents for change, to overcome challenges, and to create innovative solutions. The Learning Commons space will be supportive, creative, bold and inspiring, which are all characteristics of a great engineer, by the way.” The first phase of minor modifications is currently underway and is expected to be completed by mid-September, at which time the commons will open for student use. The full renovation, which will include a student meeting room, a problem-based learning room, and a recording studio, is projected to be completed before the beginning of the fall semester next year.
“The space itself will be truly remarkable, but the Learning Commons Initiative is about much more than just bricks, mortar, electronics, and white boards,” said Le Doux. Several new student-led programs will be created to accompany the renovation, including programs that will help students connect with each other and with faculty and alumni, such as the all-new BME Mentorship Program, which already boasts more than 500 participants; programs that will help students learn, including a range peer tutoring services and the creation of a library of student-created peer-instructional videos; and programs that will help students reach their maximum potential, including the creation of, and participation in, activities that stimulate their creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, such as case competitions and healthcare hackathons, as well as a student-led initiatives to capture and catalog the stories of working BME professionals.
For more information on the Learning Commons Initiative and how to become involved, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Written by Chris Calleri