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Pharmacy’s new active learning classroom fosters creative thinking, team-building

Published June 25, 2021

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University of Louisiana Monroe College of Pharmacy Dean Dr. Glenn Anderson, right, and students in Pharmacy’s new active learning classroom.                                                                        Siddharth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services


$250,000-classroom first of its kind in the state


By Mark Henderson

Special to the University of Louisiana Monroe

A new approach to learning needs a new kind of classroom.


That's the belief of Glenn Anderson, Pharm.D., Dean of the University of Louisiana Monroe's College of Pharmacy. He took that belief, and a magazine article, to Greg Andrews, ULM's classroom and audio-visual coordinator.


He pointed to a picture accompanying the article about an active learning classroom in Cincinnati and told Andrews, "I want this." Andrews and Pharmacy manager of technology services Marcia Wells delivered.

"We wanted to create a learning environment that goes beyond memory. Students, we know, are going to learn more here."

Dean Glenn Anderson, Pharm.D.

ULM College of Pharmacy


That active learning classroom, the first of its kind in Louisiana, is now in use. It's clear something different happens here.


"We wanted to create a learning environment that goes beyond memory. Students, we know, are going to learn more here," Anderson said.


Creative thinking enhanced by technology


In a traditional classroom, students all face the instructor with their backs to their fellow students. A teacher shares expertise; students take notes, memorize those notes, and then state those facts when test time comes.


"That's really the lowest form of learning, the regurgitation of facts," Anderson said, referencing Bloom's Taxonomy, a classification system used to define and distinguish different levels of human cognition. "At this level, students can tell you only what a drug can do."


It doesn't encourage students to think for themselves, however.


"We want our students to move to the highest level of Bloom's Taxonomy, creative thinking. We want them to be able to build a treatment plan."


In the center of the studio-style classroom is the instructor, usually a professor, workstation with an interactive smartboard. The students sit all around the instructor at 14 tables.


Each table features a 360-degree microphone, plug-ins for laptops, and a large multiscreen monitor. The technology enables professors and students to wirelessly share notes, presentations, project materials, and other content from any laptop, smartphone, or tablet between the instructor station and the tables where students collaborate as a team.


"The idea is if you sit here in the classroom, you should always see content from the learners and from the instructor. Students will learn faster and deeper through group learning," Anderson said.





The team behind the ULM College of Pharmacy’s active learning classroom are, from left, Marcia Wells, manager of technology services, Dean Dr. Glenn Anderson and Greg Andrews, classroom and audio-visual coordinator.                                                                                                  Siddharth Gaulee/ULM Photo Services


Team-building and innovation


Students work together to find answers, challenge each other, and call upon the instructor as a resource. As the team's individuals compare notes, swap ideas, and resolve conflicts, creative thinking evolves, Anderson said. What follows is development of solutions based on collaboration as a team.


Each team presents its findings and proposals with the other teams in the room, which view the presentation on the monitor at their tables.


"As professionals, we don't get to pick who we work with. Team-building involves conflict resolution. And today, medicine is moving more and more to a team-care concept," Anderson said. "It's all about team-building."


The technology expands the reach of the classroom as well, Anderson said. ULM's College of Pharmacy has two satellite campuses in New Orleans and Shreveport. A 360-degree camera and up-to-date technology allow the instructor in the Monroe classroom to extend learning to include teams there.


College of Pharmacy endowments funded the $250,000 classroom. The college worked with Scott Albarado of Metairie, a liaison with technology company Trox, in developing the room.