Students learn best when they are fully engaged in their educational experience. The new Pryor Learning Commons and William Jewell College’s shift to a learning-centered educational approach are central to achieving that engagement. Take a tour through the Pryor Learning Commons and see how it’s reshaping the student learning experience.
From the outside, the new Pryor Learning Commons – a 24-hour bookless library at William Jewell College – looks like a traditional college building, but what's inside is reshaping the student learning experience. (Photo: Business Wire)
William Jewell College students participate in class in the new Pryor Learning Commons innovation studios. Classrooms with wirelessly connected white board tables, touch screens and technology facilitate collaborative learning. (Photo: Business Wire)
William Jewell College students work on a group project at one of 20 collaboration tables, which includes a 40'' flat screen display, wireless connections, a touch screen and other methods for students to share research, content and ideas. (Photo: Business Wire)
William Jewell College Unveils a Bookless Library for its Learning-Centered Approach
New Pryor Learning Commons Sets the Bar for 21st Century Learning
A month before final exams, William Jewell College students are learning and studying in a new environment that places them at the forefront of higher education — a 24-hour library with no books. Named one of “America’s Best Colleges” by Forbes magazine, William Jewell College introduces the Pryor Learning Commons — the intellectual center of campus and a model for learning-centered approaches in higher education.
This 26,000-square-foot building replaces books with unlimited resources to gather, learn and create 24 hours a day. The Pryor Learning Commons houses two high-tech classrooms, called innovation studios; digital recording and editing suites; writable surfaces on tables and walls; wireless collaboration stations where students can engage in group projects; a café; live Twitter feed and more.
“Most current discussions in and about higher education focus on methods of teaching and/or technology,” said Dr. David Sallee, president of William Jewell College. “However, the Pryor Learning Commons provides a cutting-edge atmosphere in which the focus is interactive learning — students and faculty together are totally engaged in a collaborative learning process.”
Historically, content was the focus of formal education. The teacher knew something the students did not. The teacher shared the knowledge, and the students tried to memorize it. Today, thanks to technology, like smart phones and search engines, content is at students’ fingertips. With a facility like Pryor Learning Commons and top-rated faculty, William Jewell provides a learning environment that transcends the acquisition of content and moves students from dependence in their educational experience toward independence as mature learners.
“The embedding of collaboration and creativity in our courses takes advantage of this generation’s learning styles and uses faculty in the ways they are most valuable: as facilitators, collaborators and resources for learning,” Sallee said.
Via workshops on student-driven learning environments and learning-centered approaches the past three years, William Jewell faculty assumed the role of learners, so in turn, they could help students take full advantage of the innovative possibilities the Pryor Learning Commons provides.
Innovation in Action
In the Pryor Learning Commons’ innovation studios, students sit around star-shaped, wirelessly connected white board tables instead of front-facing rows of desks. The professor, technology and classroom design facilitate conversation, even in unexpected subjects, such as chemistry. Students work on a chemistry problem by writing it on the white board tabletop. The professor scans the responses and posts them to an 80-inch touchscreen for class discussion. All the while, a video recording device records the way students interact so the instructor can fine-tune his or her collaborative teaching methods.
“Initially, I was most excited about the idea of a 24-hour study space, but then I realized what I was walking into,” said junior Alexander Bush, Student Senate president. “Every floor is full of the tools we have always wanted — flat-screen TVs, so we can project our laptop notes; top-of-the-line digital video and audio production tools; study rooms coated in white board walls — and even those we never imagined, like a 3D printer. The Pryor Learning Commons has changed the way I participate in class, lead meetings, study for tests with groups and even how I watch Kansas City Chiefs football games!”
About William Jewell College
Located in Liberty, Mo., William Jewell College is a private liberal arts college that focuses on student achievement, critical thinking, experiential learning and leadership. This fall, William Jewell has been named to Forbes magazine’s “America’s Best Colleges,” ranked No. 146 among the country’s top tier of national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report, listed among The Princeton Review’s “The Best 378 Colleges” and ranked 62nd for service-oriented institutions of higher learning by Washington Monthly.
Every space in the Pryor Learning Commons is designed to promote collaboration and communication – even the cafe. Three screens above the cafe share upcoming events and display William Jewell-related tweets via a Twitter feed. (Photo: Business Wire)