In the Spring of 2016, the Office of the Provost and DIT partnered to ask the question “what’s it like to teach in a UMD classroom?” The "Classroom Space and Technology Survey" was designed to collect candid feedback from our instructors regarding their experiences teaching in any one of the 320+ general-purpose classrooms on campus. The main objectives of the survey were to:
- Understand the importance and impact of various elements of the physical spaces in which classes are held,
- Assess the use and performance of classroom technology, and
- Gauge the level of satisfaction regarding classroom technology support response time and effectiveness.
The most recent update to the university’s strategic plan in 2016 highlighted “Transforming the student experience” as one of its primary goals. Accelerating classroom renovations and supporting high-quality student-faculty interactions were noted as two critical elements to implement this goal. In order to create a truly impactful plan to improve the classroom inventory, capabilities, and service, it was important to first understand the classroom experience from the instructor point of view. For example, the survey results indicated an overwhelming preference for classroom furnishings that are easily movable, so plans are being developed to replace the fixed seating in a number of classrooms with furniture that allows greater flexibility. Additionally, DIT has used the results of the survey to improve the labeling of classroom cables to help instructors have a smoother pre-class setup experience.
The 10-minute survey was sent to all 3,116 instructional staff for 2015-2016. 637 instructors completed the survey, reflecting a 20.4% response rate. Respondents had an average of 15 years of teaching experience. Though all academic units responded to the survey, ARHU, CMNS, ENGR, and BSOS represented the highest response rates. 76% of respondents indicated that they teach classes with fewer than 60 students.
Overall, results related to instructors' satisfaction with instructional spaces and academic technology revealed a universal need for ensuring that instructional spaces are functional, comfortable, conducive to learning, and suitable for the style of teaching that the instructor plans to employ. In terms of classroom technology, instructors noted that they are looking for systems to run smoothly, quickly, and reliably. Ease of use was also identified as a high priority, as was the ability to seamlessly multitask with the aid of technology (e.g., simultaneous audio visual projection and board use).
This survey represents an important first step in creating a dialogue between classroom users and classroom planners and designers. Next steps include plans to gather similar information regarding user experience from the student perspective as well a commitment to publish an annual update to the campus community to communicate our progress in transforming the UMD classroom experience.
To see a snapshot of more survey results, download this infographic sheet.