From retail space to learning place

students in classroom in TBH

The Thomas Beckham Hall Project includes seven classrooms. (Photo: Carley Mostar)

On the southwest corner of Roosevelt and Halsted, a space formerly occupied by a bookstore is now the site of the Thomas Beckham Hall classrooms. The Thomas Beckham Hall Project has converted about 17,000 square feet of retail space into general use classrooms to accommodate UIC’s growing population.

students seated and studying in TBH

The space also includes oases where students can study. (Photo: Carley Mostar)

The result: five 32-seat and two 78-seat classrooms, each equipped with whiteboards, ceiling panels to enhance acoustic functionality, and projectors. The building also features oasis spaces with about 80 seats; an ACCC C-Stop with a help desk, printing and recharging capabilities; and offices for UIC Global staff.

The new spaces were designed with student needs in mind, said David Taeyaerts, campus architect.

“All the classrooms are designed to support active learning, which is shown to improve outcomes, and is reflective of pedagogies where students are discussing amongst themselves,” said Taeyaerts, associate vice chancellor for campus learning environments. “So, it’s student-to-student work, and the instructor is more of a coach or facilitator.”

This new style of active learning is where the whiteboards come in.

“Having more space and writing surface helps the student become more actively engaged in the learning process,” Taeyaerts said.

David Hofman is one professor who is excited about the potential of the new learning spaces.

“In our Physics 100 class, we are really excited to be able to use rooms like this because the whole purpose of the class is to help students get really engaged into physics,” said Hofman, head of the physics department. “The classroom style is a perfect fit.”

Hofman said the classroom layout seats students closer to the front of the room, which makes collaboration easier.

“Lots of research is being done showing improvements to student success and student understanding that can come from these environments,” he said. “I think it’s really going to be a transforming experience for many students. I’m really excited about the future, and this is one example of where the university is heading, and it’s a really good place to be heading.”

Beyond the classrooms, the oases offer students dynamic seating options to fit all of their needs, whether it’s working independently, collaborating with other students, or just hanging out between classes.

The space is closer to student residence halls, stores and restaurants on South Campus.

“It’s a win-win,” Taeyaerts said.

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