What happens if a new kind of space is created in the heart of
campus, one thats designed with the spirit of shared ideas
and inquiry built in with the hard and software? Imagine a space
where coffee, conversation and collaboration on research projects
connect faculty and students from disciplines across campus.
Thats exactly what a group of project planners from the Information
Technology Division (ITD), Emory College and Facilities Management
are fashioning for the second floor of Cox Halla space where
virtual and literal commons intersect.
After months of planning and research that included a look at a
model site at the University of Chicago and conducting a survey
of Emory faculty, staff and students, an architect has been selected
and the opening date set for this fall.
The Cox Computer Labthat bastion of sterile, white-walled,
single-occupancy computer podssoon will physically reflect
what is beginning to be understood about the use of information
As interim Provost Woody Hunter concluded at the recent EduCATE
Conference on Academic Technology: There was a great fear
that the development of all the networks would isolate us from each
The whole concept of a university has always been a gathering
together of people who work symbiotically in a variety of ways and
who learn from each other, Hunter said. The redesign,
for instance, of the second floor [of Cox Hall] is one example.
The Information Commons in the Woodruff Library is another. People
do gather together and work collaboratively more than separately,
and in fact what has happened is that the conversations that take
place in those physical spaces continue day and night and weekends,
and continue in very live and real ways that were difficult before,
if not impossible.
As technology has evolved, and particularly with the introduction
of more accessible multimedia and wireless technologies, there also
has been an organic change in the way coursework is organized and
presented by faculty and students. This sea change in modalities
requires generative physical spaces that open up collaborative opportunities.
To create this kind of environment, the walls between the Cox Hall
Computer Lab and the Customer Support Center will be removed to
create a larger, contiguous space for academic computing.
Its more of a de-construction projectlots of
walls coming down but very few going back up, said ITD business
analyst Marisa Johnson, project manager for the effort.
Just the sheer fact that people want to be working together
should be facilitated by the furniture, the size of the monitors,
the overall shape and structure of the space, said Alan Cattier,
director of ITD Academic Technologies. Are they going to be
using Smart boards on the walls to draw diagrams, working on chemical
or mathematical equations, trying to work something out with each
other and then printing it? Were imagining ways faculty and
students can work with their colleagues. Thats really the
heart of the spaceknowing that collaborative academic activity
will be going on there.
To that end, quadrants of the new facility will be equipped with
computers for assignments requiring joint authorship, and high-end,
dedicated workstations will offer groups of students the technology
to produce assigned PowerPoint, iMovie or multimedia projects. These
specialized workstations will have scanners, graphics and multimedia
software, super drives, and CD and DVD burners. In addition, e-mail
kiosks will border a coffee bar where faculty and students can have
coffee and conversation.
Small pods with plasma screens will allow group plug-and-play previews
of class presentations and wireless technology to edit them. Two
electronic classrooms will give faculty additional access
to the advanced technology that is in Smart classrooms in other
areas on campus.
One of the exciting aspects of this project for me is the
assumption that we will want to continually reconfigure this space
as new technology becomes available and our understanding of collaborative
processes improves, said Vice Provost for Information Technology
Don Harris. The team is doing a great job designing a space
that allows for that possibility without additional costs. I can
easily see this facility taking on more than one or two lives in
the next few years.
The project website can be accessed at http://www.emory.edu/ITD/COX/.
Project planners can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.