The University is bringing its classrooms into the 21st century.
Headed by English Undergraduate Chair Al Filreis, the Provost's Classroom Facilities Review Committee has been working for the past four years to upgrade classrooms so they are more accommodating to a learning environment.
With a $1 million-per-year budget, members of the Committee have met each week with a common goal in mind to transform classrooms into "the kind of spaces in which the best possible teaching and learning can occur," Provost Stanley Chodorow said.
Filreis said this sort of transformation requires the renovation of everything from the classroom walls and ceilings to the actual tools of teaching.
"One of our main efforts is to integrate physical renovation with the installation of state-of-the-art projecting and computing technology the sort of technology that is rapidly changing the way we teach," Filreis said. He added that through this project, many courses have begun to meet on-line.
English Professor Craig Saper said he has found the updated technology in the renovated classrooms in Williams Hall to be very helpful for his film studies courses.
"When I helped design the classroom I use for film studies courses, we wanted to allow students to take notes during the screening of video clips," he said. "So, we designed a rear-projection system. The lights can remain on in the classroom without interfering with the image quality at all. "It is crucial to prepare classrooms at Penn for the video and electronic opportunities now available," Saper added.
While improving undergraduate education has been the Committee's primary goal, the project has also served to accomplish something rather rare at the Universitythe unification of all four undergraduate schools.
Filreis explained that the Committee is a "central-administration project." It has not aimed at improving the classrooms utilized by one particular school, but by those in which the Registrar's Office schedules "central" courses.
Committee member Ira Winston, who is also the director of computing for the Engineering School, agreed that the project has created more cohesion between the schools and the adminis- tration.
"The communication between the schools and the central administration group responsible for central pool classrooms has improved dramatically."
So far, classrooms in Williams Hall, the David Rittenhouse Laboratory, Bennett Hall, Meyerson B-1 and the Leidy Laboratory lecture hall have been renovated. Plans are underway to refur- bish the Moore, Tender and Towne buildings.
Wilson projected that the project will be completed at the beginning of the next century.