PoP – Test Mode

Time to test!

My problem of practice continues to focus on exploring ways to improve student retention in online courses. During three of the prior modes in the design thinking process (empathize, define, and ideate), I have discovered a number of obstacles that may inhibit student success and decrease retention for students enrolled in online courses. One of the obstacles is the lack of support and assistance in the online environment where the instructor is not standing in front of the class lecturing, demonstrating, and available to immediately answer questions and provide assistance within a synchronous setting. For the prototype mode, I created two prototypes that focused on providing additional support and resources to students when it comes to learning weekly and fundamental course topics and offering assistance – the prototypes were tested by online students currently enrolled in my web programming course.

Approximately half of the students in my course participated in the testing process and provided feedback on the video that I created which walked students through creating their first web page (based on a hands-on exercise within chapter 2 of their course textbook). I participated in an online collaborative coding session with one of my students where we tested the use of an online tool called Collabedit for collaboration between students and students and their instructor. Prior to the collaborative coding session, I supplied the student with a tutorial PDF document that I created for accessing and using Collabedit and its features so the student had a basic understanding of how to join and participate in the collaboration session.

The purpose of testing the prototypes that I created was to determine if these solutions would be beneficial to online students and if the solutions would provide the students with additional support options that could be used for learning and collaborating with both the instructor and their classmates within the online classroom. If students know that assistance and additional support is available, they may be more likely to stay enrolled in the course, successfully learn the course material, and complete the course with the appropriate knowledge to continue on with their education with confidence and assurance.


A Re-imagined Learning Space

The Current Learning Space

In my current classroom, the desks are arranged so that they face one another with long rows along both sides of the walls and one row positioned in the middle of the room. The computer monitors are hidden inside an area at the top of the desk and when they are opened, the person directly across is blocked from view. The current lighting in the room uses old type fluorescent lighting.

The instructor’s station is located at the front corner of the room and is positioned next to a large pull-down screen and when expanded, 70% of the large whiteboard on the wall is covered leaving only 30% along the side for writing. The video projector equipment is mounted on the ceiling but when powered on, the bright light shines into the instructor’s eyes making it necessary to stand off to the corner when lecturing and presenting to the class.

Interior of the classroom.Interior of the classroom - back to front view.

Restructuring the Learning Space

Learners come into a classroom and on any given day may use chairs, desks, tablets, browse the web, use computer software, etc., all these things are part of their experience whether it’s an object or a service. In the video on Experience Design, Tedde van Gelderen describes an experience as “a holistic view of how people go through a set of events as they are in time.”

How does a learning space affect the way people learn and their overall experience? A study that was conducted during the 2011-12 academic year that included seven primary schools in England, collected performance data on 751 students. The study ranked classrooms “for 10 different design parameters: light, sound, temperature, air quality, choice, flexibility, connection, complexity, color, and texture.” (Vanhemert, 2014) The findings revealed that color, choice, complexity, flexibility, connection, and light did indeed have a significant effect on learning within the classroom.

The notion of personalized learning where each learner has unique needs and learns in different ways can also be incorporated into the space in which they learn. A learning space and experience that is more personal, promotes enhanced learning, engagement, and creativity! As Sir Ken Robinson told CBS News in an interview, “Schools need to make education more personalized. Because everyone is different, they learn in ways that need to be individually addressed.” (Svokos, 2015)

The Re-imagined Learning Space

“A lot of people are talking about communication and collaboration but their spaces aren’t speaking collaboration.” (Edutopia, 2013)

I imagined a learning space designed to be more conducive to collaborative group work, idea sharing, and more student-centered (personalized) and driven. The design takes into consideration a BYOD (bring your own device) environment along with supplied devices (tablets) with keyboards and mice that are stored within the classroom, whiteboards lining the walls, and a large monitor located in the front and along the sides of the room.

NOTE: The back wall and door are not present in my design in order to provide a better view of the interior learning space.

21C classroom design - back view

The walls are painted using neutral color tones with additional color incorporated into the classroom through the use of furniture, “yellow furniture to elicit feelings of liveliness, energy, happiness and excitement.  Red and orange in small quantities can also demand attention and attract learners’ attention to detail – a great way to lead students to a certain part of the room for an engaging activity.” (Smith Systems, n.d., para 11)

21C classroom interior - close up view

The furniture within the room will include ergonomically designed chairs on wheels for easy movement and comfort, two comfortable lounge chairs, colored chairs on wheels, round tables on wheels that seat 4-5 students, tall standing tables, small storage cabinets, and a standing instructor station on wheels. The furniture design will promote mobility throughout the classroom allowing for group work and collaboration.

Close up of side wall with furniture and cabinets.

Lighting options will include dimmable lighting and small round windows near the ceiling that will allow outside light into the room. “Lighting influences concentration, mood and interaction. Lighting controls allow the teacher and student to select lighting that suits the learning style of the moment.” (Thorn Lighting, 2009)

Necessary Resources for Implementation, Timeline, & Funding

Fortunately the building that I work in at the college will be renovated this year and the whiteboards, new furniture, monitors (fully implemented during the second stage of renovations), and new lighting are all included as part of the renovation expenses making implementing portions of this vision very feasible.  The tablets have already been purchased and are currently available for student use. The small, round windows that are part of my vision, may not be feasible depending on the room location within the building. If additional equipment is needed to implement my vision outside the scope of the renovation, it can be requested through Perkins funding available through the college. Funding requests are presented to the advisory board in the Fall and Spring of each calendar year for approval.

The timeline for the building renovation is from May – December (2016). The new building will open to the students and public at the start of the Winter 2017 semester in January. The community, faculty, and students will all benefit from the renovation and the newly designed rooms. The learners will have a more personalized, updated classroom environment that will allow for more collaboration and the use of 21st century technologies with the intention of also promoting student engagement.


Edutopia. (2013, March). Remake Your Class (Trailer) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXjEcnaYAmc#t=54

Smith System. Colors in the Classroom Learning Environment – Color Your World. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://smithsystem.com/resource-library/article-library/color-world/

Svokos, A. (2015, April 22). Sir Ken Robinson on What Makes An Effective School. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/22/ken-robinson-personalized-education_n_7121700.html

Thorn Lighting. Applications in Focus Light for Education. (2009, September.). Retrieved from http://www.thornlighting.com/holding/microsites/education_microsite/Main_ED_brochure.pdf

Vanhemert, K. (2014, January 18). Study Show How Classroom Design Affects Student Learning. Retrieved from http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671627/study-shows-how-classroom-design-affects-student-learning

Collaborate, Create, & Share

Let’s play, create, and share in the cloud! If I would have announced that to my students at the start of class just 5 years ago, I more than likely would have experienced complete silence in the room or may have heard murmurs of “What is she talking about? This is a Web Programming class not an Astronomy class.”

While creating a 21st century lesson plan this week, I looked to Renee Hobbs’ (2011) list of “five core competencies as fundamental literacy practices: Access, Analyze, Create, Reflect, and Act” to help me develop a lesson for my Introduction to Basic Web Programming course.

I chose to use a web-based front end development code editor and playground environment in the cloud called CodePen to acclimate students to using a programming technique called pair programming. In addition to learning about pair programming and using a web-based tool to develop a simple web page, the students will share their web page in the form of a “Pen” within a Google+ virtual community created specifically for the course and then discuss and evaluate each team’s work within a virtual environment.

Google+ Logo

CodePen is a playground for the front end web.

As I created the 21st century lesson plan for this week, John Seely Brown’s statement from “The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012)” played over and over in my mind: “As we move into the 21st century, we have to completely rethink the work scape and the learning scape.”  In addition to Brown’s statement, I also decided to place emphasis on two of the five core competencies described by Hobbs (2011): Access and Act. I want my students to use CodePen for problem solving as well as self-expression (Hobbs, 2011, p. 16). The students as a team, will choose a topic of their choice and create content (self-expression) to include in the basic web page that they are developing (problem solving) using CodePen (web technology) and sharing within a Google+ virtual community (web technology). I want the students to gain the experience of using web technology  to”rethink the learning scape” as Brown (2012) spoke of in his Keynote at DML2012.

In addition, one of Hobbs’ critical questions perfectly aligns with teaching the students the concept of pair programming. Hobbs asks the question “Do they recognize how to leverage the strengths of others to accomplish a common goal?” (Hobbs, 2011, p. 19). This encompasses the whole idea of pair programming! In pair programming, each member has their own strengths that they bring to the table and as a team, they work together to “accomplish a common goal” (Hobbs, 2011, p. 19).

The utilization of multiple web technologies to perform problem-solving tasks and demonstrate self-expression while “leveraging the strengths of others to accomplish a common goal” (Hobbs, 2011, p. 19), positions the Collaborate, Create, & Share lesson nicely into the realm of 21st century learning.


Hobbs, R. (2011). Digital and media literacy: Connecting culture and classroom. Thousand, Oaks, CA: Corwin/Sage.

Brown, John S. (2012). The Global One Room Schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (Highlights from JSB’s Keynote at DML2012) [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM&feature=youtu.be