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UMass Lowell Classrooms Get ‘Smart’

All Rooms Technology-Enhanced to Support Student Success

Beth Halaby
Beth Halaby, an instructor in the Clinical Laboratory and Nutritional Sciences Department, uses the integrated teaching podium in Weed Hall for discussing and projecting information.

By Karen Angelo

To increase student success, UMass Lowell equipped 100 percent of its classrooms with technology that helps faculty explain complex topics to students.

“One hundred and ninety classrooms on campus are ‘smart,’ or technology-enhanced,” says UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan. “This generation of students expects to use technology in every aspect of their lives, especially in education. This investment gives faculty the tools needed in the classroom to help students absorb and retain complicated information, which is key to student success.”

The University’s technology-enhanced classrooms include a teaching podium, computer, digital document camera, DVD/VCR player, laptop and network connections, integrated sound and a system that controls all audio and video from the lectern. Some classrooms also include an interactive LCD touchscreen that acts like an electronic writing tablet with the ability to save, share and print class notes. 

Faculty and students are extremely positive about how the technology supports learning not only in the classroom, but also later as students review materials and lectures to prepare for exams.

Lecture-Capture Technology Helps Students Retain Information

UMass Lowell also recently outfitted 60 classrooms with Echo360 lecture-capture technology, the largest deployment of its kind in New England.

Echo360 creates a rich digital media version of the classroom experience that includes archived video of the instructor and presentation materials used in class so students can access them later from any computer or mobile device to aid in studying.

Nursing major Marcia Schleier, a junior from Wilmington, said that getting a second chance to view the slides and listen to the lectures has helped her understand complex information.

“Listening to lectures after class has really helped me remember information,” says Schleier, a student in Prof. Lisa Abdallah’s “Nursing Assessment and Skills” course. “While in class, I am taking notes and reading the slides, but sometimes I need to fill in some information. But then I go online and watch and listen to the lecture. It’s amazing because when I am taking the test later, I actually hear my professor’s voice and can remember what she said. It really works.”

In addition to using Echo360 lecture-capture technology, Abdallah also uses a “clicker” system during class that lets her know how well students are learning the information she is presenting. Each student uses a handheld device to answer the professor’s questions by aiming it at a slide and clicking on their choice of possible answers.

“The new technology in our lecture halls lets us know on the spot whether critical concepts are understood by our nursing students,” says Abdallah. “When I use the clicker system in class, students are more engaged and I receive instant feedback on whether they are absorbing the information.”

Improving Student Success

The expansion of UMass Lowell’s “smart” classrooms to all lecture spaces is just one example of the University’s ongoing efforts to improve students’ academic success. Other initiatives include the introduction last year of learning communities, freshman seminars that teach academic and life skills, and workshops focused on improving performance in challenging courses such as calculus.

These and other initiatives are generating positive results. The percentage of UMass Lowell freshmen who continue on to their sophomore year has increased from 75 percent to 81 percent since Fall 2007, while the percentage of students who continue on for four years increased from 63.7 percent to 69.1. UMass Lowell also broke records the last three years for the number of graduates, this year awarding 2,390 degrees to undergraduate and graduate students at commencement.