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New Active Learning Classrooms are Modeling Innovations to Come

David Platt, Associate Dean for Undergraduate ProgramsBy David Platt

It was a pleasure to welcome students back for the spring semester with the announcement that the McCombs School of Business will open two new active learning classrooms (ALCs) in fall 2014. Modeled after the classrooms at Deloitte University, Deloitte's leadership development center in Westlake, Texas, the ALCs will offer team-based, adaptable, and state-of-the-art learning environments, representing an important innovation in classroom design and an important new resource for the McCombs community.   

We are grateful to the partners and employees of Deloitte, its subsidiaries, and the nonprofit Deloitte Foundation for their help funding the creation of these ALCs — one of which will be called the Deloitte Classroom, in honor of their generous individual personal contributions that were matched by the Deloitte Foundation.   

While having two new ALCs is an important step forward for us, perhaps the greater benefit is having a chance to pilot test a new teaching approach. As we look toward the future, with the hope (freshly enlivened by the recent $40 million gift from the Mulva Family Foundation) of one day renovating our current building as a state-of-the-art facility for undergraduate business education, it is exciting to be able to test approaches that could influence our future building design and help promote the value of the McCombs brand.

But as with so many good things in life, there is a catch: We are at capacity in our current facility, and the only suitable location for the ALCs is where the popular Millennium Lab is located. There won't be room in this building to create a new space like the Mil Lab until we do the renovation.

As an interim solution, I have worked with a committee of McCombs students to design a process for innovating with ALCs while still preserving most of the Mil Lab's functions. In order to accomplish that, we developed an approach that provides additional collaboration space and furniture around the building, innovative software support solutions, more power connections for laptops, and some computers in the Mod Lab.

The space changes, including the ALC/Mil Lab renovation, will occur in summer 2014. There will be no change in Mil Lab availability until after final exams of the spring 2014 semester.

The active learning classrooms are a big step forward for the McCombs School of Business as a whole and for McCombs BBA students specifically. I strongly believe that this project is the right move to continue building the McCombs BBA brand and to make sure that the McCombs School of Business maintains its rightful place among the leading undergraduate schools of business in the nation.

This article was adapted from an email Dean Platt originally sent to students in January.

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