Biomedical and Health Sciences Classrooms
Rutgers University Robert Wood Johnson Medical School | New Jersey
As part of our on-call contract with Rutgers University, much of our work has involved the design of immersive synchronous classrooms (ISC) and distance learning classrooms at the Business School and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Synchronous immersion is achieved by projecting, or ‘throwing,’ a life-size visual of the presenter along with instruction content to an audience located in a remote, or ‘catch,’ classroom. The audience in the ‘catch’ classroom is in turn displayed on large format screens in the ‘throw’ classroom; located on the back wall for the faculty or presenter to see easily. By way of cameras, large format screens, and highly responsive audio systems, the presenter can engage, acknowledge, and call upon ‘catch’ classroom students in real time to create a truly integrated classroom experience. While both distance learning and immersive learning environments rely heavily on technology to allow students and faculty to engage, to achieve synchronous immersion the space must be able to support a full-scale, live projection or display of the presenting faculty.
This initiative was developed as a response to the university’s most recent master plan, ‘Rutgers 2030.’ The university had identified that students were traveling heavily within and between their multiple campuses to take classes which was having a negative impact on their academic experience, and the master plan had proposed pursuing distance learning techniques and other new pedagogical technologies like ISC as a countermeasure. The first true ISC on campus involved adapting a pair of existing lecture halls, one in the Wright-Reiman Building on the New Brunswick Busch Campus and one in the Loree Building on the New Brunswick Cook/Douglass Campus, that could each accommodate 150 students.
Distance Learning Classrooms and Immersive Synchronous Classrooms: The success of the Wright/Loree ISC led immediately to a feasibility study in April 2017 to evaluate classrooms used by Rutgers Biomedical Health and Sciences on the Newark, Piscataway, and New Brunswick Campuses for their suitability to become ISC. The goal was to identify existing tiered floor classrooms that could be transformed into immersive synchronous classrooms, accommodating at least 100 students in each location. Unfortunately, most of the potential rooms were considered unsuitable for conversion, so the concept was shelved for the time being.
In March 2018, we worked with Rutgers Biomedical & Health Sciences to evaluate additional pre-selected classrooms for suitability for distance learning or adaptation as ISC: two located within their Newark Campus facilities and four located within the Robert Woods Johnson Medical School Building on the Piscataway Campus. This time, the focus was on flat floor classrooms and the potential of accommodating the ISC model in a seminar-style layout accommodating around 50 students in each.
At the Newark Campus, the selected classroom in the Medical Science Building was a lab classroom with casework around the perimeter and support fixtures like an exhaust hood, but it was ideally suited for ISC conversion in terms of size and ceiling height. The project was completed in early 2019.
At Piscataway, the team determined that two small adjacent classrooms that had originally been a single large volume (V12 and V12A) could be recombined into a single distance learning classroom to hold approximately 40 students. Construction was completed in early 2020.
Medical Education Building Study: The Rutgers University Medical Education Building (MEB) is a six-story building at the New Brunswick College Avenue Campus. The first five floors were designed to house offices and classrooms while the sixth floor dedicated to animal studies with a vivarium and associated support spaces. In 2019, the University implemented a feasibility study to convert the sixth floor, which had been largely untouched for thirty years, into a series of private and shared offices. These would be supported by a shared conference room and both large and small “huddle rooms” for collaborative work. The proposed scope consists primarily of interior improvements but does include new windows and a lightwell to bring in natural light for occupants. At this time the project has not yet proceeded into design.
Lecture Hall Renovation: This project, not related to the distance learning and ISC initiatives, modernized an existing lecture hall at the New Brunswick Campus. The lighting and AV/IT systems were upgraded, including the installation of two confidence monitors to support lecturers by allowing them to view both themselves and their presentations. New seating was installed, replacing the existing bright red upholstered seats with more refined models in dark charcoal, as well as new carpet and handrails. The finishes in general were redesigned with light wood paneling and a contemporary neutral palette that is more in keeping with their current interior standard
Architecture, Interior Design, Planning