Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Wallace Library

Academics

New Learning Labs Open

Posted on September 25, 2012

From the coveted Cole Room to the depths of the Stacks, Wheaton’s study spaces have always offered variety. With this summer’s addition of the Scholar’s Lab and complete renovation of the Language Lab, students have gained two new spaces that facilitate collaborative work while remaining flexible enough to meet the needs of a class or independent project.

Scholar's Lab tables and chairs

A Laboratory for Scholarship

Located behind the Information Desk in the Madeleine Clark Wallace Library, the Scholar’s Lab was previously used as office space. Minus the cubicles, the space is hardly recognizable. The expansive room’s tables, chairs and whiteboards are all mounted on casters, allowing for a wide range of configurations. The lab also contains a flat screen which can be connected to a computer, an aid in establishing clear and effective group communication.

“We called it the Scholar’s Lab because we want it to be focused on academics,” says Director of Research and Instruction Scott Hamlin. “It’s for students to use for their academic work, whether they’re meeting with a librarian or a technologist or a faculty member, and it’s for faculty to use for their professional development.”

Student studying

Visitors can also make use of the drop-in hours of librarians and writing tutors held in the Scholar's Lab. Events will also be hosted in the Scholar’s Lab, including webinars for faculty and, starting next semester, a series of invited lectures on information and technology topics.

A Laboratory for Language

“The carrels were the first thing to go,” states Faculty Technology Liaison Jeanne Farrell, manager of the campus Language Lab. “The model was old-fashioned; the furniture was screwed to the floor and you couldn’t move it. It didn’t allow for collaboration of any sort.”

Located in Meneely Hall, the Language Lab’s renovations ran parallel to those in the library both in purpose and timeline. Hamlin notes, “It was interesting to have both of these projects going on at the same time. I think that both of them informed each other a little bit.” The furniture in both of the spaces, for example, was provided by the same Providence-based company.

The Language Lab carrels were replaced with flexible furniture to accommodate the divergent needs of its users. New Macs were installed, featuring programs such as VoiceThread, iMovie and GarageBand which are being used by classes for podcasting and storyboarding. To showcase the new space, Farrell hosted an open house with the foreign language faculty and described various advantages the makeover offers for their teaching.

Computers in the Language Lab

However, the space is not restricted to academics alone. States Farrell, “We’re hoping that some of the foreign language clubs take advantage of the space and have functions in here.” She also encourages teaching assistants and tutors to meet with students in the space.

Experiments to Come

Both labs were shaped by creative thought; nevertheless, the walls remain blank. Hamlin and Farrell agree that this must change. The Scholar’s Lab will soon be decorated with artwork by Wheaton alumni.

In keeping with the international emphasis of the Language Lab, Farrell hopes to organize a rotating exhibition of photographs from the Center for Global Education’s Eye on the World contest, which highlights photographs taken by students during their abroad experiences.

The welcome renovations will undoubtedly appeal to faculty and students alike. Says Farrell, “I’ve had a number of faculty walk into the space and not realize it had been renovated and go, ‘Wow! Can I teach here?’”

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