Do you ever find yourself sitting in class, not able to pay attention? Not because of anything that is being said or shown on a screen or whiteboard, but because of the room itself? Maybe it’s the lighting, maybe the seats are uncomfortable, maybe the technology is glitchy or maybe it is something else. Or on the flip side, maybe it is so easy to pay attention in class because the desk is large enough to not make you feel suffocated, the lighting is good because of the windows that let in natural light or you can have your own space because the seat is comfortable. There are definitely places on campus that work better for focus than others, and the Anchor has set out to find out which ones are your favorites and least favorites.
Most classes on campus are fifty minutes or an hour and twenty minutes of sitting, but even that long can drag on if the conditions aren’t just right. There are multiple times that I have found myself sitting in a fifty minute class counting the lines of wood on a desk or shifting in my seat because my brain is getting restless, which transfers into physical movement. It is really distracting and so often its result is having to reteach myself the information covered in class because I could not make my brain focus enough to pay attention. Of course it is next to impossible to design a classroom that is perfectly ideal for every single student of the student body; however, there are definitely some things that could be done to maximize the efficiency and productivity of a space that is designed for learning.
For those people who spend the greater part of their days inside the classroom either in class or a lab without going outside or seeing a glimpse of the sun, lighting is really important. Dim light often makes you feel tired, so you might start to doze off if you spend that time sitting. Maura McCoy (’24) says that “the best place to have class on campus is probably Lubbers or Martha Miller. The classes are always lit really well with natural light and it doesn’t get tiring as quickly in the rooms. Plus the buildings are really architecturally beautiful.” The rooms in Martha Miller and Lubbers do tend to be really spacious and have good windows so the natural light can come in, which McCoy mentions is helpful. Some of them even have comfortable seating like the computer lab in Martha Miller where the research methods classes usually take place. With the newer buildings on campus, like the Miller buildings, the architectural aspects that make them aesthetically pleasing, such as the Rotunda space in Martha Miller, provide a space that invites concentration and focus. Kaitlyn Lee (’23) mentions, “I believe the best place to have class is Martha Miller, Lubbers or Van Zoeren. I enjoy classrooms with tables and large desks rather than small desks, as it allows for students to spread their things out, rather than balance many things on a small desk. I think classrooms with projectors are also helpful for students to see.” Technology definitely plays a role, as classrooms with projectors give the option to zoom in on small text if a student at the back of the class cannot see.
On the flip side, we also asked about the worst places to have class on campus. Lee attests that “I think the worst place to have class is the Chapel, as the desks are small, and the space isn’t helpful for small group work, or for students to use their computers. The basement space feels small and cramped, and isn’t the best space for learning.” Basement areas seem to be commonly disliked because McCoy also mentioned one. “The worst place to have class is definitely Van Zoren or the basement of Durfee. They feel very much like highschool classrooms and are just draining after a while.” Basement areas are tricky because you have to get creative with lighting. In the basement of the Chapel, the lighting is probably the biggest issue since it is mostly overhead and not enough natural light, although the prime purpose of the building itself isn’t necessarily to house classes.
So what makes a classroom better to focus in? Lee told us “tables and comfortable chairs. It also helps to have projectors as well as space for computers on the table, as sometimes it can be difficult to see the screen from the back of the classroom. I enjoy classrooms with big windows, so having classes in rooms without windows makes it difficult for me to focus.” The layout of a classroom is something that not all of us think about until it disrupts our focus and concentration in a class when we really need the information for a project or exam. What we are hearing is students want to feel like they can have their own space in a classroom.