McCombs School of Business to unveil technology-enhanced classrooms in the fall


Two new Active Learning Classrooms in the McCombs School of Business will be opening fall 2014, supported by a $500,000 grant from the professional services firm Deloitte. 

The new classrooms will be converted from the current Millennium Lab, a computer lab and student collaboration workspace in McCombs. The lab is set to close on the last day of final exams and then be redesigned into the Active Learning Classrooms during the summer. 

“It’s not very easy to do group work, and it’s not really technologically enhanced in those rooms, so this just makes it a lot easier, and that takes down a barrier to doing that type of class approach,” associate dean David Platt said. 

The Active Learning Classrooms will feature a podium in the middle of the room, wall-mounted white boards, multiple projection systems and tables around the room. As a result, the classroom will have no front or back. 

Platt said a concern from many students was not having access to software only available in the Millennium Lab. 

To help prevent that potential problem, James Coombes, assistant director for computer services, designed a remote application service called mCloud for business students who need to easily access software found at the Millennium Lab. The application can be accessed with a remote desktop client to run on students’ own computers. 

“We’re trying to solve the problem where the Millennium Lab is used by students who need to access certain, specialized software that’s either too expensive for them to install on their own computer or just don’t want to go through the hassle,” Coombes said. 

Coombes said mCloud has been in its pilot phase since the beginning of the school year and should become an official service by the end of the semester. Once it becomes an official program, Coombes said students will be able to access the software on their own laptops without having to use the Millennium Lab. 

To make sure all students’ needs were met during the transition to the new Active Learning Classrooms, Platt worked with a committee of McCombs students to ensure the important functions of the Millennium Lab were conserved in other ways. 

“The initial reaction was negative because students didn’t know how McCombs was going to make up for the space that was going to be lost,” Jordan Costen, supply chain management senior and committee member, said. “It’s important for students to understand that we will have all the resources available, if not more.” 

Michelle Patterson, management information systems senior and committee member, said the committee was particularly focused on replacing the space. 

The committee gave Platt ideas to give students a place to use the software, print documents or collaborate on assignments. Patterson said they plan to advertise mCloud more this semester, in the hope that students will be more aware of what the school now offers. 

“The opportunity to be ahead of the curve on some of the new technology that’s being developed in higher education is huge for McCombs,” Patterson said.