Innovative U-M classroom building opens its doors to active, team-based learning

December 16, 2021
Contact: Fernanda Pires fpires@umich.edu
Central Campus Classroom Building at U-M. Image credit: Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography

Central Campus Classroom Building at U-M. Image credit: Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography

When winter semester 2022 begins, University of Michigan students enrolled in about 90 undergraduate and graduate classes will experience the school term in a brand new facility, the 105,000-square-foot Central Campus Classroom Building.

CCCB will open its doors to more than 10,000 students per day and invigorate the Central Campus east gateway entrance.

Approved by the Board of Regents in December 2018, together with the Alexander G. Ruthven Building renovation project, the CCCB was built to support the growing campus need for active and team-based learning classrooms, particularly for larger classes. It features 1,400 classroom seats in various room configurations ranging from 100 to 572 seats.

“Our goal is to offer innovative and collaborative experiences in all classes, where students interact with and learn from their instructors as well as each other,” said Amy Dittmar, senior vice provost for academic and budgetary affairs.

“The CCCB offers a variety of large, modern classrooms that support this type of teaching and learning. We are very excited to welcome instructors and students into the building to transform the teaching and learning experience at such a large scale.”

Teaching in the round

The CCCB’s signature classroom is the 190-seat classroom in the round. It is a state-of-the-art classroom based on the theater-in-the-round concept, where the instructor is in the center of the room surrounded by students sitting in rows that form a circle.

The classroom provides a 360-degree experience. Despite its size, the greatest distance between the instructor and students is five rows, creating a unique and intimate learning environment.

“The display screens also follow this same circular pattern, so students sitting anywhere in the room will be able to view content easily,” Dittmar said.

U-M is one of only a few institutions in the U.S. that currently have this unique type of classroom, she said. Others include Oregon State, Washington State and Texas A&M.

“Due to technology supply chain delays during the pandemic, we were unable to have this room ready for the start of winter term classes,” she said. “We look forward to using the room for classes in spring 2022, however.”

Culture of collaborative learning

Located at Geddes and Washtenaw avenues, the CCCB was specifically designed with collaborative learning in mind and with input from a faculty advisory group.

Multiple aisles allow instructors to navigate each classroom easily and connect with students wherever they are. Furniture in every room enables students to learn independently and in teams, as needed. Three of the seven classrooms will have technology at every student table so students can work together and share their ideas with the entire class.

At 572 seats, the new CCCB auditorium will be the largest classroom space on the Ann Arbor campus, yet even this room provides opportunities for active learning and collaboration.

The auditorium includes seating where students can work with those beside them or turn 180-degrees to work with those behind them. And with only 13 rows between the instructor and the students in the back row, even the largest classes will feel more personable.

More than 350 informal seats and whiteboards also exist throughout the building, providing areas for students to study, collaborate or socialize outside the classroom.

“We hope the new classrooms inspire our faculty to teach classes in new and innovative ways and that the building offers a vibrant and inviting space for students to learn and grow together,” Dittmar said.