Intellectual Commons to feature state-of-the-art learning spaces


    Preparing students for an ever-changing world is what the provost says is the driving force behind the development of The Academy of Tomorrow.

    The Academy of Tomorrow is not an actual academy, but consists of the ideas and the innovation TCU plans on implementing within the new Intellectual Commons said Nowell Donovan, vice chancellor for academic affairs.

    "The whole idea of The Academy of Tomorrow and the Intellectual Commons springs from a sense of wanting to make sure that the education we give you and the research we do is actually relevant in the modern world," Donovan said.

    The main focus point of The Academy of Tomorrow will be an instructional building that will be built on the parking lot behind the library, Donovan said.

    The building will include formal learning spaces such as lecture halls and traditional classrooms, he said.

    "Much more exciting is that there is going to be a lot of state of the art learning spaces where we can encourage interdisciplinary research and learning, where we can have a sort of ideas factory where people can come and develop ideas," Donovan said. 

    Brent Folan, student body president and Intercom representative, said he thinks by enabling the students to become participants and not just listeners, the Academy of Tomorrow will enhance TCU academics.

    Plans to create an Intellectual Commons were influenced by a prior SGA that was conducted earlier this academic year, Folan said. Intercom, the student representative board, shared the results of the survey with the board of trustees when the board was working on their next seven-year plan, he said.

    Linh Do, a sophomore accounting and finance double major, said that she can see how both a lecture-style classroom and a more interactive layout can be useful.

    "It's a big room full of chairs and a big screen for lectures," Do said. "That type [of atmosphere] is kind of tied to science subjects when the teacher has a lot of information and not focused on discussion."

    Do also said that she appreciates another class she has in Scharbauer that is smaller than the lecture halls in Sid Richardson. 

    "You can sit separately or you can work together in a circle like a small group," Do said, "It's a more interactive style of study, and it provides a different method to have discussion in class, so I kind of like that the best."

    Paul Schrodt, associate professor of communication studies, said that while there are certain subjects that may lend themselves to a more interactive style of instruction, he feels classroom facilities are a small part of the learning experience.

    "The more important things to me are what are the specific objectives, what is it that you want your students to know by the time they leave your class, and how are you going to enable your students to accomplish those objectives?" Schrodt said. "And then, do you have the proper resources and tools and environment to help your students succeed?"

    Schrodt said that some of his research focuses on what is called instructional communication, which looks at how the communication process facilitates student learning.

    He said that because every class is different in the way it needs to be conducted, it is up to each professor to decide how interactive their class is. 

    Donovan said that professors from across the campus were able to contribute to the ideas that will be implemented in the Academy of Tomorrow. 

    "Not everyone will be able to be fit into the concept because a lot of people are technologically challenged to a degree, but everyone can bring ideas to the table and work out new ways of doing things," Donovan said. 

    Donovan said that he thinks the ideas behind the Academy of Tomorrow can enable changes that need to be made across many areas of study. 

    "We're taking old, existing ideas and looking at them and saying, 'Okay, is there a better way of doing them?'" Donovan said.

    Donovan said he wants the new building to enable students to think about the world they live in and the big future problems they face.

    "The space is the Intellectual Commons," Donovan said. "What we do in the space is The Academy of Tomorrow, which involves me and you saying, 'Okay, we are going to make a difference.'"

    Two of the Intellectual Commons buildings are planned for construction next year, according to Paulette Burns, dean of the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences.