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IUPUI Collaboration Theatre wins European honors for best classroom space

Inspired by classical amphitheater design, the room fosters collaboration and conversation

Teaching and learning Jun 16, 2021

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—For the second year in a row, Indiana University has earned international recognition for its innovative use of technology in learning spaces.

Earlier this month, European University Information Systems (EUNIS) named the Collaboration Theatre on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) campus the best AV-enabled classroom educational space in its 2021 EUNIS Awards. In 2020, IUPUI’s Idea Garden won the EUNIS Award for best AV-enabled makerspace. Formed in 1993, EUNIS is a nonprofit organization for people who are responsible for the management, development, and policy of higher education IT in Europe.

Watch a video about the Collaboration Theatre >>

“We are truly honored by this recognition from EUNIS for the second consecutive year,” said Julie Johnston, IU’s interim associate vice president for learning technologies. “Of course, when our learning space design team creates a new classroom space, their end goal is to advance the teaching and learning missions of Indiana University. To win such a prestigious award from our European colleagues makes all of the team’s hard work even more rewarding.”

We built the Collaboration Theatre in part to foster excellent collaboration and conversation, and in that vein, it features a circular design to create an intimate environment for a large group of students.

Julie Johnston

The Collaboration Theater in IUPUI’s new Innovation Hall is inspired by classical amphitheater design and augmented with modern technology to promote learning. Open for instruction since spring 2021, the space is configured to adapt to emerging technology, and wrapped with two curved Direct View LED video walls. These two walls encompass a 22.5-foot-wide by 6-foot-4-inch high span on each side with 3.6 million pixels on each wall, making every seat in the classroom a good seat.

Johnston said that understanding the evolution of architecture and its influence on human behavior plays a pivotal role in the design and development of not only creative workplaces but also learning spaces. The word “amphitheater,” for example, derives from the Greek word “amphitheatron,” which means “theater with seats on all sides.” The stage, located in the center, aims to create a strong sense of community and promote energy flow between the audience and the actors. In ancient Rome, amphitheaters were typically used for entertainment spectacles such as gladiatorial games, poetry contests, public debates, and musical performances.

A nod toward ancient Greece

The new space is inspired by ancient Greek amphitheatres, like the one seen here, which featured seats on all sides of the stage.

“We built the Collaboration Theatre in part to foster excellent collaboration and conversation, and in that vein, it features a circular design to create an intimate environment for a large group of students,” said Johnston. “Inspired by the innovative design of the Collaborative Theatre at Oregon State University, we wanted to learn what worked well for them and where there were opportunities for additional enhancements. Creating an American football-shaped classroom, rather than a round classroom, is efficient in terms of space and brings students closer to the center of the classroom—improving learning outcomes.”

The Collaboration Theatre clearly lives up to its name, according to the people using it every day.

“The swivel seats in this room are a game changer [compared to other fixed seating lecture rooms]. My students will actually be able to collaborate in here,” wrote one IU instructor on the room. Said another, “IU’s commitment to listening to instructors and building spaces that support their needs is inspiring. Coupling that with the desire to push the edges of educational technologies that further enhance the learning experience for students is why I love being here.”

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