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A geology class at the U.

Geology undergraduates learn about the Earth's surface using tools developed at the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics, an NSF-funded Science and Technology Center headquartered at the U's St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.

Rooms for the learning

Published on September 13, 2005

The term classroom management can conjure up rowdy kids, chaos, and a lonely teacher up in front trying to hold it all together without falling apart. But at the University of Minnesota, classroom management takes on a different meaning. It's the quest to create the most technologically up-to-date and comfortable classrooms, while ensuring that the right people find their way into those classrooms at the right time.

The University of Minnesota's busy Office of Classroom Management (OCM), which was formed in 1999, is primarily responsible for a job that can look like one big headache to an outsider: scheduling 12,500 course sections each semester into 300 rooms with 24,000 seats in 63 buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

To get the job done, the OCM staff are spread across four units: classroom support, which provides University faculty with classroom orientation, including assistance with in-classroom audio-visual or presentation equipment; classroom scheduling, which determines the use of classroom space and develops all final-exam schedules; classroom facilities, which maintains the physical environment of each general purpose classroom; and classroom technical services, which plans, installs, and maintains a classroom's audiovisual systems.

"Classroom Management is really a group of University employees who are devoted to helping this place do what it does best--teach," says OCM director Steve Fitzgerald.

What's in a classroom?

According to the Office of Classroom Management, all classrooms on the Twin Cities campus must meet the requirements listed in Classroom Appendix to the U of M Facilities Construction Standards. Here's a sampling of classroom must-haves:

* A clock on a wall (other than the front wall).

* A pencil sharpener

* Opaque window treatments, such as shades or blinds that can eliminate all outside light.

* Washable wall surfaces, especially in new classrooms.

* Marker boards must be a minimum of 4 feet high and mounted 36 inches above the floor.

* An instructor's seat should look similar (in its finished detail) to the other furniture in the room.

In 1995, the University conducted a major study to explore the long-standing issues and problems with its general-purpose classrooms. The study concluded that the University needed a serious upgrade of its classrooms to attract both teachers and students. Blackboards were becoming a thing of the past; projector-capable classrooms were in.

All of the U's general-purpose classrooms (also called central classrooms) are projector-capable, meaning they are equipped with a data and video projector, smart interface, user-friendly control systems with laptop plug-ins, video inputs, and modular add-ons for special, room-dependent capabilities.

While OCM looks after the general-purpose classrooms, as well as lecture halls and auditoriums, individual University departments are responsible for managing and scheduling "departmental classrooms"--the studios, labs, specialized or unique teaching facilities, and computer labs dedicated to the requirements of a particular department, discipline, or program.

To learn more about University class schedules and rooms, visit the Office of Classroom Management.

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