Designing for problem-based learning in a collaborative STEM lab: A case study

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  • 90 TechTrends November/December 2014 Volume 58, Number 6

    AbstractHigher education institutions are using

    virtual telepresence systems to engage in collaborative course redesign and research projects. These systems hold promise and challenge for inter-institutional work in STEM areas. This paper describes a case study involving two universities in the 4-VA consortium, and the redesign of a shared STEM lab. The purpose of this study was to investigate pedagogical needs across related content areas, and to use findings to make informed lab design recommendations that support beliefs and best practices involving knowledge acquisition. The researchers used several data collection points involving human subjects, site visits and technology testing and evaluation. Results emphasize the need for remote presence in the student-centered and distributed space. Design recommendations are organized into the following categories: general lab space, projection and display, storage, cable management and outlets, videoconferencing, use and management of the lab, computing and mobile devices, software, and training. Further research is proposed.

    Keywords: 4-VA, collaboration, higher education, instructional design, lab, problem-based learning, research, room design, STEM, telepresence

    All learning environments, explicitly or tacitly, reflect underlying beliefs about how knowledge is acquired and used (Hannafin & Land, 1997, p. 172).

    IntroductionTelepresence systems are becoming

    increasingly transparent given the rapid development of remote virtual technologies and techniques (Fuchs, 2012). This transparency contributes to a sense of connectedness among objects, people, and their interactions at a distance (Mantovani and Riva, 1999, p.540). Although the potential in higher education is still emerging, systems that support virtual presence hold promise for university collaborations. In particular, they may revolutionize expertise and resource sharing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education (Khare, Sahai, & Pramanick, 2013) where situated learning, problem-based learning and simulations are pedagogical best practices (Mong & Ertmer, 2013).

    Inter-institutional collaborations have emerged among four universities in the state of Virginia as part of a statewide initiative called 4-VA. One goal is to increase the success rate of STEM students (see Faculty at participating institutions engage

    Designing for problem-based learning in a collaborative STEM lab: A case studyBy Michele D. Estes and Juhong Liu, Shenghua Zha, and Kim Reedy, James Madison University

  • Volume 58, Number 6 TechTrends November/December 2014 91

    in collaborative teaching projects where they deliver remote courses in Cisco immersive telepresence rooms connected to one another via high-speed LambdaRail. In these classrooms, instructors and students appear on large screens in the front of each room while presentations are shown on adjacent monitors. The virtual shared space is designed to simulate the same physical space; for example, monitors are wide and positioned at table level, cameras are microphone activated, and lighting is consistent at each site. Unfortunately this classroom configuration, where seating and microphones are fixed, limits teaching and learning activities in student-centered labs in STEM content areas. In these areas, problem-based learning (PBL) offers a viable method for teaching inquiries (Mong & Ertmer, 2013, p.16). Instructors facilitate the learning process and scaffold experiences to foster inquiry and discovery among students in authentic contexts.

    When an empty lab became available for STEM faculty at one of the 4-VA institutions, researchers collected, analyzed and interpreted data to make design recommendations. The purpose of this case study was (1) to investigate the needs of a physical and virtual STEM lab space shared by two 4-VA universities, and (2) to make informed recommendations regarding the technologies, techniques and room configurations that empower best pedagogical practices. The people, pedagogical practices and technologies associated with this site and the collaborating institution served as the bounds for this case study research (Creswell, 2013).

    Literature ReviewAccording to Hannafin and Land (1997),

    All learning environments, explicitly or tacitly, reflect underlying beliefs about how knowledge is acquired and used (p. 172). For a collaborative STEM lab experience to be successful, the learning environment should be intentionally designed for active, student-centered and problem-based learning experiences (Mills & Treagust, 2003). Individually, in small groups, or as a whole class, students engage in authentic problem-solving activities facilitated by the instructor. Through iterative processes, students design and develop solutions to everyday problems, often using instructor and peer modeling, demonstration and simulation. Instructor-student and student-student contact involves timely discussions and feedback about new ideas, processes and products (Norstrom, 2013; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1999).

    Learning spaces are complex and involve a

    combination of physical designbehavioral normsand technology interfaces (Milne, 2006, p. 11.8). Effective room design requires intentional decisions grounded in good pedagogical practices (Fairweather, 2008; Jonassen, 2000). This is usually accomplished through advanced planning and active dialogue with stakeholders-practices that can also help avoid unnecessary cost (MacPhee, 2009).

    The design of the space will impact the behavior of the instructors and students who use it (Walker, Brooks, & Baepler, 2011). When that space is shared, special considerations should be made to accommodate changing needs. For example, the use of modular and mobile furniture and multiple projection displays allows one to reconfigure the room and work without a centralized podium (MacPhee, 2009). Digital technologies like screen sharing extend communications beyond the classroom to other sites (Oblinger, 2006; Chism, 2006). Audio and video equipment can capture, save, and share information during real-time learning experiences (Leiboff, 2010).

    Although stationary videoconferencing rooms are better equipped and technically adjusted to practice than temporary locations (Logdlund, 2010, p. 186), mobile videoconferencing could be key to supporting distributed and active learning experiences where close-up and multi-angle observations are possible. If interactions are designed with all learners in mind, participants at remote sites will be less likely to remain passive and invisible (Logdlund, 2010). Technologies used to effectively engage learners across sites will allow support direct dialogue, sharing and projection of text, audio and imagery, and real-time, two-way communications.

    MethodsThis section explains the research questions,

    the bounded system of this case study, data collection procedures and the methods of analysis. The research questions are:1. How is teaching and learning currently

    conducted in STEM lab spaces?2. How can an existing STEM learning space

    be redesigned to promote student-centered approaches, interactivity, and distant col-

    laboration with another institution?

    Identifying the Case & Bounded System

    To define the case clearly, researchers should identify the bounded system and the people involved in that system (Creswell, 2013; Stake,

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    1995). The focus of this research was the redesign of a lab space at a large Masters degree granting institution, with a very high undergraduate enrollment, in the Eastern United States. The partner institution is a research university in the same state with very high research activity and STEM dominant doctoral programs (Carnegie Classification System

    An empty lab was reassigned from another department to STEM faculty at the first site. The space itself had no intentional design and only the constraints of the inherent architecture. See Figure 1. In this lab, STEM faculty at both universities hoped to deliver shared online instruction, engaging students and faculty at both sites. Specific faculty partnerships and course sharing models had yet to be defined.

    The researchers took an applied approach to gathering data about pedagogical practices, needs and options for collaborative STEM courses. They obtained Institutional Review Board (IRB) informed consent for human subjects to participate in a questionnaire and interview or focus group sessions. The researchers visited local and remote sites to take notes about space, layout, configuration, equipment and connections in technology-enhanced rooms. They involved faculty and staff at both universities in practical matters like testing and evaluating a range of cutting-edge innovations. In addition, the researchers reviewed space design literature to align outcomes with pedagogical practice, and reviewed vendor documentation to ensure or request functionality for specific usage in this case. The researchers used the people and resources available to generate conceptual solutions for implementation since none of the available spaces, technologies or techniques at the institutions offered such resources for the shared

    course design project.

    Data Collection and AnalysisQuestionnaire. After obtaining IRB approv-

    al, the researchers invited 20 STEM faculty mem-bers to participate in an online questionnaire. The local 4-VA director identified the potential recruits as faculty in STEM areas who were ac-tively discussing the emerging partnership with another 4-VA institution. The questionnaire in-cluded items asking about STEM courses taught, equipment and facilities used, expectations and hopes for the learning space, the envisioned use of space, and availability for a follow-up interview and/or focus group. In addition, the researchers attempted to use snowball sampling to identify potential collaborators at the partner institution. Unfortunately, local faculty had not yet identi-fied potential faculty partners at the remote site. Therefore, human subjects were recruited only from the local site.

    Three faculty completed the questionnaire and agreed to participate in a follow-up interview or focus group. Two other faculty expressed interest via email and were invited to the interviews or focus groups. In total, two faculty joined a focus group session and three participated in individual interviews. Among these five participants, three faculty taught in the engineering department, one in the physics department, and the other in the computer science department. Each participant had taught for many years at the university. Because participants represented a variety of STEM disciplines and had extensive experience in the field, researchers were able to gain meaningful insights into the STEM lab needs.

    Interviews and Focus Group Session. Findings from the questionnaire were helpful for researchers to design interview and focus group questions. For example, results were used to prompt further discussion about best pedagogical strategies and resources, expectations and hopes for an ideal lab design, and faculty experience in an online learning environment. The semi-structured interview and focus group guide allowed for elaboration and follow-up as needed. The three interviews and one focus group session were videotaped and transcribed. Identifiable information was kept confidential.

    Researchers analyzed the qualitative data by reviewing the results line-by-line, reducing content and documenting emerging themes from the participant perspective. Through this process they discovered consistent themes across data points involving reported problems, collaborations, pedagogical needs and non-pedagogical needs in the learning space. In addition they learned that overall, participants

    Figure 1. Empty STEM lab

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    were not very experienced using modern online teaching and learning systems or strategies. This information was considered a potential obstacle for faculty participants who may not be able to fully articulate the nature of an ideal collaboration through an online learning environment.

    To further make sense of the results, researchers organized detailed findings into emerging categories. In keeping with the applied nature of the case study, the researchers used results from the interviews and focus group session to match innovative technologies, resources and room configurations to the needs, problems and potential collaborations identified. This required site visits and collaborative testing and evaluation, and resulted in a comprehensive presentation. The researchers reported findings to institutional leaders including members of administration and staff responsible for classroom services, computing, networking, instructional technologies and the 4-VA initiative at the local site. These individuals expected an interpretation of the data along with recommendations rather than just a report of general findings.

    Site Visits, Testing and Evaluation. To identify appropriate technologies for the preliminary recommendations, the researchers made several site visits where particular attention was paid to technologies and strategies used with regard to some aspect of the study. At the partnering institution, they visited a SCALE-UP classroom configured to connect instructor and student computers using an Apple TV network (Apple Inc., 2013). With instructor control and static IP addresses, users could also share screens. While at the partner site, the researchers visited a robotics research lab and observed the configuration, storage, and cable management strategies. While these spaces worked well on-site there were networking constraints and complexities that would prevent either the classroom or lab from being a workable solution for the needs of the inter-institutional collaboration.

    The researchers also visited two telepresence rooms at the local site. These rooms are designed to engage users in a sense of virtual presence with integrated high quality cameras, soft lighting, table top microphones, fixed seating, and eye-level displays. Although there was not enough flexibility in this space for active STEM courses, the rooms server could be used with the Jabber application to connect from any location via mobile device.

    To test Jabber on laptops and the iPad, the researchers scheduled their online meetings with one another using the server and existing services. As an emerging technological system on campus,

    further development of scheduling and support services involving the server was needed and underway. During the virtual meetings, screen sharing was not accessible on some devices.

    The researchers visited the new performing arts center on campus to examine acoustic panels, microphones, and the video and audio sharing system from the stage area to the lobby, and to find out how these were centrally controlled. Unfortunately, the adoption of a similar system in the STEM lab would require reconstruction and labor costs exceeding the limits of this project. In addition, even though stage performances could be shared in real-time through an LCD panel, the video and audio transmission was only one-way. This would hinder the communications among students and instructors in the STEM lab, given the importance of interactivity among sites.

    To seek out optimal projection, the researchers visited the Sphere, a NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) visualization tool located in the College of Education (see The facility uses cameras around the room to project images onto a spherical shape in the center of the room. Although it was a fascinating resource, the number of cameras, the protective space required for the sphere, and the limited remote site connectivity via the Internet were not practical for the STEM lab space.

    Finally, the researchers visited the university stadium where they observed acoustic paneling, wire management techniques and a 360-degree camera. Similar acoustic paneling could be used in the STEM lab to help eliminate loud air handler noises. Comparable wire management techniques could be applied along the walls, cabinetry and ceiling to organize the clutter of wires, cables and student backpacks observed in STEM labs. At the stadium, the HD 360-degree pan and tilt cameras were able to zoom from one scoreboard to the other infield, clearly displaying each blade of turf grass. The camera system offered split screens with preview and program options on a switcher, and the operators in the control room could communicate with those on the field. This equipment required an operator, which the STEM lab could not accommodate, and while the 360-degree camera would have been powerful enough to capture any part of the lab space, the challenge would be students standing in the way of its stationary view because of the distributed and active nature of the learning experience. Displaying unusual angles in a STEM lab space with constant

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    mobility would be critical.

    Findings and InterpretationsThe researchers incorporated all findings

    and preliminary recommendations from the data collection process into a solutions-oriented presentation that drew clear connections among the background, methods, outcomes and preliminary recommendations for STEM lab redesign at the local site. They matched technological solutions to the case needs, problems and potential collaborative activities, and presented preliminary recommendations to administrators and staff in classroom services, computing, networking, instructional technologies and the 4-VA initiative. Findings responded directly to research questions. More specifically, findings addressed these topics: targeted lab use, general lab space, projection and display, storage, cable management/outlets, videoconferencing, use and management of the lab, computing and mobile devices, software and training.

    RQ: 1 How is teaching and learning currently conducted in STEM lab spaces?

    Key findings revealed that participants, regardless of content area, sought a student-centered space that would make authentic problem-solving activities in a team environment possible. Students were reported to often work in groups of 2-3 and were allowed to use their own mobile devices as well as any provided equipment. Some students were expected to store and access files in the cloud.

    Students used Windows, or dual-boot Macintosh and other robust computers, for productivity. Even so, there were needs identified by participants that could be addressed by other, less robust devices designated for collaboration and media sharing only. For example, one participant hoped to offer virtual office hours for students using audio and video. They hoped to have students share demonstrations or problems directly from their workstations to a remote site, showing the tabletop and student as one might do easily with a mobile device. The participants did not want to be reliant on technician support to conduct a class session with a remote site.

    Faculty participants reported designing learning experiences around problem-solving. For example, students in one class conducted independent research, using mobile devices to collect and analyze geographic information system (GIS) data. In some other engineering classes, students were required to work in pairs or triads, discussing problems and testing solutions together before completing the lab assignments.

    The problems were ill-structured and messy. The space could not be organized perfectly, and students would have to make choices about what to use to solve those problems and how to go about it. The space would need to be flexible, depending upon the nature of the course, for students to effectively demonstrate skills and test products.

    Sharable storage of large and small parts was necessary. Funding for lost parts was a concern, and so security and portability of specific parts among labs was important.

    Some courses were project-based, requiring management of materials and processes in conjunction with a client in the community; for example, a client may be a child or adult who requires adaptive solutions to complete everyday tasks. The lab would need to be connected to the community as well as across institutions to provide that authenticity for students in project-based courses.

    The faculty were initially asked to use the campus telepresence systems room to deliver their STEM courses. The room layout was stationary and the cameras, seating and microphones were fixed. There was little floor space other than that required for sitting, as one might do during a conference call. Instead, the faculty decided to use the room only for lectures and to use the new STEM lab space for hands-on work.

    In the STEM lab, the faculty planned to have two instructors, one who would serve as subject matter expert on a particular topic, and the other at a remote site who would serve as facilitator. These roles could switch during the course of the semester. Anticipated pedagogical strategies included mini-lectures, software demonstrations, and hands-on practice and data analysis for student groups. The collaborative teaching approach would allow for multiple perspectives and would hopefully increase student achievement and transfer.

    RQ 2: How can an existing STEM learning space be redesigned to promote student-centered approaches, interactivity, and distant collaboration with another institution?

    To promote student-centered learning, interactivity, and remote collaboration, the room would need to be reconfigured with the installation of projection and display devices, videoconferencing, and mobile and other computing technologies. Because the lab space would be shared and messy it would require secure storage space, cable management, and effective management of the lab space. Findings led to preliminary lab design recommendations.

    Lab Space (General). The STEM lab measures 26 wide x 32 long. The room is

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    spacious enough to allow for the demonstration of an object the size of a large bike, to enable small and large robots to maneuver on the floor, or to allow for 22 students at workstations. The low hanging rows of lights could be recessed into the ceiling, and the ceiling could be raised to a height of 10 or 11 to make space for flying objects in robotics courses. See Figure 2. Even so, these activities could not happen simultaneously, and furniture would have to be flexible to allow for sharing and storage among departments and programs. More specifically, tables would need to be moved against the wall and/or folded up with chair racks nearby. The island in the room would need to be removed. This expansion of space could allow nine groups of students to gather at workstations simultaneously, and two to three students per group to write code in front of computers while testing robots on the floor nearby. Each workstation would need a computer with power supply (or students could bring their own computers), and four to five power outlets and Ethernet ports or cables per station. Wireless would be available but may not be strong enough for some tasks.

    Although the room would need to support instructor lecture, there would be no need to define a front of the room. Any monitors should remain unobtrusive and able to display students and their work where they are. Rather than have large monitors, it would make more sense to have small displays connected to each shared workstation. If connected to a mount, the device could be raised and lowered to stream the student workspace locally, or at a remote site, and to receive imagery from others. The device could be removed from the mount for mobility.

    There was a loud air handler noise in the room, which was likely to be disruptive during lab time. Soundproof board, like that observed in box seating at the stadium and at the performing arts center on the local campus, could be helpful. Ideally the room would have a soldering station, although another would be available in a nearby lab.

    Projection and Display. During labs, the instructor and student stations would need to be broadcast for display in the remote site room. Project screens could scroll from the ceiling or virtual screens could be projected on all four walls by an HD ceiling or wall-mounted interactive whiteboard with 360-degree projection onto a pliable whiteboard surface.

    Distributed projection and display could be handled in a number of ways. The researchers investigated the forthcoming features of technologies like Google Glasses (see and zSpace (see http:// that use augmented reality for engagement; and Leap Motion, where one could navigate between web browsing and other applications without the onerous operations of keyboard and mouse (Leap Motion, 2013). Gesture control and projection mapping would require configuration, but within reason (Leap Motion Forum, June, 2013). This was successfully tested using a MacBook Pro running Leap Motion Touchless Control and a 48 TV with a VGA cable adaptor.

    Storage. The problem-based learning approach calls for students to effectively select and use the parts and other supplies necessary to solve practical problems. These parts require secure storage in a shared lab. The recommendation from faculty was to have floor to ceiling cabinetry large enough to hold 10-12 robots as large as mini fridges, and 25-27 bins to hold parts as small as bolts. Common supplies like needle nose pliers and cutters should be shared across departments and/or programs because they service both digital devices like laptops and oscilloscopes, and machines like a drill and grinder. In addition, some supplies and equipment would need to be carted to and from a nearby lab. The rolling cart should have at least two levels and be compartmentalized or support rolling racks of separate bins or boxes that stack.

    Cable Management and Outlets. STEM labs are necessarily messy with many parts and supplies from which students and faculty choose to solve practical problems. Cable management and decluttering can help maximize room space for these needs during the teaching and learning process. Cable hooks and standard hooks for student backpacks along the wall could greatly reduce clutter and increase ease of access. Because room activities would be distributed and the furniture flexible, bundling additional

    Figure 2. Flexible STEM lab space design

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    retractable power and Ethernet from the ceiling on a grid could be very useful. Additional ports would need to be available to power and charge equipment throughout the room.

    Videoconferencing. Videoconferencing was a recurring topic in this study. Faculty wanted to allow guest lectures and interactivity through two-way interactive audio and video features. They wanted to allow remote sharing via camera and screen sharing. When videoconferencing, it would be necessary to effectively display small items, large items, small group activities and entire class activities from various angles. Cameras would have to be both mobile and stationary at times. The videoconferencing system would need to enable individual and group conferencing from laptops and perhaps other, more mobile devices while still in the lab space. Room videoconferencing could be captured with a 360-degree pan/tilt camera with strong zoom. However, mobile devices would be far superior

    for sharing, conferencing and displaying from a variety of angles at any location in the lab.

    During videoconferences with community members, public schools or other universities, students should be able to do the following: share what is on their mobile devices, share digital whiteboard functionality and share objects like those typically displayed via document camera. Although free applications like Google Hangouts and Skype allow for videoconferencing and application sharing, they do not have the classroom management features for faculty to control the communication and collaboration in and between physical classes.

    When working across institutions, the campus wireless networks block connectivity with many stand-alone application sharing and screen sharing programs. Robotics technologies like the Suitable Technologies Beam (see and the Double Robotics Double (see, however, work well and allow remote site control across networks. See Figure 3. These technologies introduce mobile presence where the instructor and/or students can roam another site, looking over the shoulder of others as they work and conduct business as usual.

    Use and Management of the Lab. The use and management of the lab were concerns of the faculty who would share the space. They hoped to adopt a scheduling system that would send meeting invitations and offer transparent room booking. This could be accessed across departments and institutions for scheduling the room and the equipment in it. The room could be used with or without the remote connection. At the local site, instructors wanted to make the lab available to students between courses and lab sessions.

    Computing and Mobile Devices. When speaking of productivity, the faculty preferred Windows and Linux operating systems. They needed a robust processor and lots of RAM. While laptops could be stored in the lab for students, students could instead bring their own to the lab. It was not pressing that students receive new laptops as part of this collaborative initiative, but if they were purchased it would be important for the faculty to provide specifications first.

    Mobile devices seemed a positive solution to many of the collaborative needs. iPads were preferred for tasks like taking and sharing high quality imagery with forward and rear-facing built-in cameras, for demonstrating student and instructor work, and for videoconferencing from any location in the space. However, iPads lacked the USB input and output needed to accept peripherals, and could not be expected to replace more robust computers for productivity. Instead,

    Figure 3. Use of Beam for faculty-student interactivity

    Figure 4. Use of mobile for real-time demonstrations and problem-solving

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    they could be used in tandem with the PCs to support collaboration. See Figure 4.

    Software. Software could be used to help students move from concrete concepts to the more abstract, and to work digitally without the unnecessary use of paper. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and augmented reality browsers could be used to collect important data. File sharing and storage could be managed with centralized class access to store data in the cloud or through applications like Photo Stream. Speech recognition and gesture-sensitive apps could free instructors or students hands from maneuvering physical devices so that they could stay focused on instructions or content-related problems.

    Training. Training for both students and faculty would be helpful for those moving into the STEM lab space. Instructors expressed a general concern about student literacy in a digital context, and the use of reliable sources for their work. More critically, though, they would need training on the use and care of the lab and devices. Safety instruction would be necessary before using a drill and grinder and other dangerous equipment. Faculty could benefit from participating in training of new classroom technologies like those used for videoconferencing, active learning and collaboration. Senior faculty and/or expert faculty could present their teaching strategies for moving from concrete to abstractions in the lab, a skill and approach that seemed highly desirable among the faculty participants in this study.

    LimitationsA limitation of this study was the small sample

    size. Not all respondents chose to participate in all aspects of the study. Further, the collaborating faculty at the partnering institution had not yet been identified. For this reason, human subjects were limited to the primary research site. If the study were conducted with the collaborating faculty as well, new conceptual understandings could emerge. Finally, the time available for this study was limited to one semester. For this reason there was not time to pursue individuals further when recruiting and conducting member checks nor time to move beyond the conceptual stage in this case study.

    ConclusionsOn-site and remote collaborative pedagogical

    needs emerged from faculty interviews and the focus group, and became the cornerstone of the redesign plan. First, the new lab space had to support student-centered problem-based learning in the physical space. There should be sufficient space and facilities for students in a

    range of STEM courses to solve problems and complete projects individually and in groups. This echoes findings from other studies which suggest that STEM classes should be designed to give students opportunities to demonstrate, discuss, and solve authentic problems (Mills & Treagust, 2003; Norstrom, 2013; Springer, Stanne, & Donovan, 1999). Based on this need the design plan included the following preliminary recommendations: minor modifications to the physical space, flexible furniture, the use of unobtrusive and distributed displays and equipment, storage for robots and equipment, bins for parts used regularly in class, retractable power and Ethernet on a ceiling grid, a scheduling system for the lab and equipment, computers and software for productivity, and student and faculty training on safety, technologies and strategies.

    Pedagogical needs for the collaborative were focused on a desire to retain a student-centered problem-based learning approach when separated geographically. To respond to this need the researchers collected, analyzed and interpreted data from human subjects, site observations, vendor communications and evaluative outcomes from the research and testing of innovative hardware and software applications. Numerous issues were encountered and many ideas discounted due to the nature of best practices in STEM classrooms, and the desire to stay true to the purpose of this study.

    While conceptual in nature, preliminary recommendations for the collaborative seem worthy solutions to this complex problem. Key recommendations include the use of a non-proprietary videoconferencing option to allow for university, K12 school, and community project work. Furthermore, the use of mobile videoconferencing solutions for students in the distributed environment is key since the students, rather than a technician or instructor, will be in charge of its use, and since the location of student activity in the lab is somewhat unpredictable and spontaneous. For remote instructors, the Beam or similar mobile presence unit is proposed for virtual engagement and connectedness with students beyond the mobile device. The instructor can roam the room, look over the shoulder of students and conference directly with them in real-space and real-time.

    Computing solutions tend to emphasize either productivity or collaboration but not both. Only a limited number of mobile devices offer features like forward and rear facing cameras, for example, that are quite useful for students attempting to show their work and also conference with the instructor. Even when good features, like classroom management support, are identified,

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    network boundaries established for each university can create difficulties. No one technology, platform or application can solve the collaborative need in this case. There is much to do.

    The researchers have continued to test tech-nologies to pinpoint specific videoconferenc-ing, mobile and remote control device solutions for online students. Further research is needed, though, regarding the impact of the room design and configurations on learning activities in the STEM lab environment, after implementation. Although the focus of this study was on the re-design of one particular lab and collaborative, preliminary recommendations can be considered and/or applied to the design of other STEM edu-cation classrooms.

    Michelle D. Estes is an Associate Professor and Director, Educational Technology Graduate Programs at James Madison University. Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to her at: Learning, Technology and Leadership Education Department; College of Education, James Madison University; phone: +1 540-568-4311; email:

    Juhong Liu is an Instructional Technologist for Blended Learning in the Center for Instructional Technology at James Madison University.

    Shenghua Zha is an Instructional Technologist for Distance Learning in the Center for Instructional Technology at James Madison University.

    Kim Reedy is a 4-VA Collaborative Consultant at James Madison University.

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