The Core – A Catalyst for Student-Centered Learning at OU

We are just wrapping up the inaugural semester in The Core, the new active learning classroom in the Stephenson Research and Technology Center.  This fall we had five courses in The Core, with subjects as varied as biology, business, political science, and meteorology.  While each professor had a different approach for incorporating active learning techniques into their class, they all embraced the technology and arrangement of the classroom to transform their course.  Courses held in The Core this semester were more team based and student centered, the hallmarks of active learning.

Promoting active learning at OU was the goal behind the creation of The Core.  Content is now widely available to students, so it is becoming clear that passively receiving information in the traditional lecture format is not engaging the current generation of students. Research shows that incorporating active learning techniques into formerly traditional lecture classes increases retention, class attendance, and student success.  In addition, this type of learning allows students to use content received outside of class (e.g., journal articles, previously recorded lectures, etc.) to solve real-world problems in class in a collaborative environment.  Providing students with the opportunity to develop these skills prepares them not only to succeed in college, but also in the workplace.

As you can see from the picture, The Core is configured in round tables that each seat nine students, which enables teamwork among students. Everything in the design of the space, from the whiteboards surrounding the room to the swiveling chairs, was chosen with student collaboration and student-professor interaction in mind.  To take the collaboration even further, students can connect their laptop or tablet to one of three touch-panels at each table to show the content of their device on the 50” display at their table.  This allows for seamless content sharing among the students at each table and among the entire class.

Now that The Core is up and running, and faculty are becoming more interested in including active learning in their courses (or in some cases, taking the active learning they are already doing to the next level), we can focus on goals for the future.  One of these goals is to use what we learn each semester to refine and improve all aspects of the space to ensure OU continues to be at the forefront of active learning and the associated technologies.  We also hope to use this information to inspire additional classrooms like this on all of OU’s campuses.

If you are interested in learning more about The Core, contact Erin Wolfe at or 325-3926.  Even though the classroom is almost fully booked for spring, we would be happy to discuss the possibility of hosting a course, a few sessions of a course, or even a study or discussion section.  We can also accommodate groups in need of meeting/workshop space; the groups we have hosted this fall found it to be very effective for fostering a highly collaborative and engaging meeting.

Jeremy Hessman