There is a space on the fourth floor of the library at Carleton University with no bookshelves. No, it’s not a washroom. It’s the Discovery Centre, an interactive learning space open for all students where they can bring work, sit in one of the wheeled chairs and move around or study while walking on one of two treadmills. There are also 60-inch 3D gaming displays, 3D printers (which will soon be up and running) and circular couches that face laptop-connected projectors.
The Discovery Centre is helping Carleton’s library adapt to new ways of learning. Alan Steele, the centre’s director, says the technology and configurations will encourage students to think in ways static classrooms won’t necessarily allow.
But what do students think of the new options for studying? In one of the lounges in a nearby computer science building, student Georges Anktnmamm was surprised to learn it existed while student Andrew Bjuaki had just recently seen it and thought, “Wow, we finally have this.”
Anktnmamm says he will probably use the 3D printer to make a case for his tablet, as long as the cost is agreeable. Cost has not yet been determined. As for what can be printed, “the design is mostly limited by creativity,” said Anthony Dewar, a student who will be managing the printer.
In addition to helping students learn about an emerging technology, 3D printers—also available at Dalhousie University and the University of Waterloo—will give Carleton students reasons to brag. “I will never pass up an opportunity to tell the U. of Ottawa friends what we have,” says Bujaki.
Peter Ricketts, Carleton’s provost and vice-president academic, says keeping Carleton attractive is the part of the reason for the centre. “We wanted to do it because, like many universities, Carleton faces an issue of student retention,” he says. Students want to have learning experiences beyond just sitting in a classroom, he adds. “They want more engagement. They want to be active.”
While the 3D printers are already creating a buzz, the two treadmills are usually vacant. Steele says he thinks that might be partially because of self-consciousness.
The gaming displays are for academic work. For example, a gender studies student can look at the way women are portrayed in gaming. However, they might one day open up beyond classwork.
In the meantime, students can borrow video games from the university library, a fact that recently made gamers everywhere jealous when a Carleton student posted a photo on the social news website Reddit showing Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for Nintendo with the words, “My school library rents games.” Thousands of users showed their approval by “upvoting” the photo.