Active Learning Center

The Active Learning Center is a studio classroom that is central to the development of UConn’s first-year writing curriculum.

The Center was established in 2018 with support from a Steelcase Education grant. It is located in the Philip E. Austin Building on UConn’s main campus in Storrs. Its unique design promotes studio pedagogy, or an approach to learning that focuses on hands-on experiences, group work, and open discussion.

The First-Year Writing Program uses the space to study how writing studio pedagogy affects student learning.

About the Center

The Active Learning Center features innovative room design and technologies that help make writing an active and collaborative process.

Flexible Furniture

The Center is flexible and modular so that the space can be redesigned for multiple purposes. The room is arranged differently than conventional classrooms. Instead of rows of desks facing the front of the room, the Center features chairs, tables, and sofas arranged in groups so that students can collaborate on activities.

  • Most of the furniture in the Center is on casters, meaning you can easily wheel almost everything in the room into new configurations. Casters can then be locked in place as needed.
  • Some objects are not designed to move at all, such as the cubbies, supply shelf, tall table, and TV table. Please consult with First-Year Writing Program staff before attempting to rearrange these items.
  • Some of the room's furniture is height-adjustable. The trapezoidal "group table," the "elevator table," and all the chairs that go with these tables can be set to different heights.

Display Screens

The Center features five screens that instructors can use in a variety of ways.


The two monitors are just like large computer screens. They are controlled by the console in the corner of the room. They can show the same display or separate displays, depending on instructor needs. Each monitor can also show displays from laptops and mobile devices.


The SMART board functions like the monitors but has the added benefit of a smart display. Users can annotate slides or documents projected on the board by using the digital markers that come with the board. The board also functions as a touch screen, allowing users to navigate projected pages with their bodies.

Whiteboard Projector

The whiteboard projector is essentially a projected monitor. It can mirror other screens or show its own display. Because the projection overlays a whiteboard, people can write/draw on the screen with dry-erase markers. Like other monitors, users can project from laptops and mobile devices.

Active Media Table

The active media table (or "TV table") features a miniature monitor that can be raised from the table's surface at the touch of a button. The active media table is a great place for students to collaborate on a digital media project.

Instructional Tools

The Center features several unique instructional tools that might at first seem "low-tech," but which open up a wide array of learning opportunities.


The blackboard is large enough that most of the class can work on it simultaneously. You can write on the board using liquid chalk, which you can erase with a special fluid found in the supply closet. The board is magnetic, which allows users to stick notes to it. Chalk and magnets can be combined to create organizational systems that the entire class can build together together.

Personal Whiteboards

Sixteen personal whiteboards hang on the wall near the whiteboard projector. The personal whiteboards provide students, alone or in groups, ready access to a basic and reusable writing technology. The boards are large enough for presentations. They also interface with much of the furniture in the room. For example, they can be slotted upright into the long tables by rocking them into the clip at the end of the table, transforming the boards into either easels or visual dividers.

Paper Table

The round paper table's surface is made up of dozens of layers of circular pages stacked on top of each other. This means that the table is essentially a giant notepad, ideal for group brainstorming.


Power sources are located in several spaces throughout the room. Wall outlets can be found on most walls, and floor outlets are distributed across the room so that students can plug in their electronics regardless of how the space is set up. The tall table has outlets built into it and can charge devices when the table is plugged in.

In addition, the Steelcase power threads expand the flexibility of power stations. Threads can be repositioned as needed based on the configuration of the furniture so that everyone has power access. This access makes the Center a truly digital-friendly space.

Media Technologies

Media technologies are available for first-year writing instructors to check out. Some of these are limited to use in the Active Learning Center, while others can be borrowed by instructors teaching in any classroom.

These technologies include iPads, digital video cameras, desk mics, iPhone microphone attachments, over-the-ear headphones, and podcast soundproofing. For questions about how to access, check out, or use these technologies, please email the First-Year Writing Program.