In 2016, Timothy P. Mottet launched a new kind of classroom at Northwest Missouri State University. As provost, he envisioned a learning space alive with technology, with touch-activated whiteboards, ubiquitous laptops and pervasive power sources.
It’s not just about the gadgets, but about the nature of the space itself. “When prospective students come to our campus, they should look at our physical spaces and see an institution that is serious about teaching and learning,” said Mottet, who recently took on a new role as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo.
“We know that environment contributes to learning, from the colors to the furniture to the temperature to the lighting. The current literature talks about immediacy, the need to create a feeling of closeness between a teacher and a student. We want teachers to be in the middle rather than on the perimeter. That is what facilitates the conversation, and then the technology becomes the tool to further that,” he said.
When it comes to rethinking the learning environment, the secret to success is to not overreach. “We’re adding technology to our classrooms only at the rate that it can be supported,” Mottet said. His team evaluated some promising technology that it ultimately did not adopt. “We didn’t have the bandwidth, we didn’t have the tech support, we didn’t have the teaching and learning support to help develop the faculty. We want to get to the next level in a way that our teachers can support, that our IT people can support. Then we will continue to add to that as new resources become available.”
In his new role, Mottet said he is aiming to instill a common sense of mission across the institution. “I want this to become a ‘learning institution,’ where faculty and staff are all educators. It’s not just the job of faculty: Everyone involved in higher education is responsible for the learning environment. We are all working to achieve learning outcomes,” he said. — Adam Stone