Making the Upgrade at UC Davis

UC Davis just finished renovations to 10 classrooms, another milestone in the Classrooms Work Group’s plan to refresh all 130 general assignment rooms at least once a decade. 

Details seldom go overlooked when it comes to upgrading a classroom at UC Davis, where decisions about whether to install whiteboards or chalkboards are data-driven and generate the same rigorous debate as must-have components in the tech systems. 

Fixing Up Existing Stock

In its fourth year, the Classrooms Work Group — an increasingly diverse group of students, staff and faculty — just completed floor-to-ceiling upgrades in nine general assignment classrooms in Olson Hall (117, 146, 147, 151, 217, 223, 244, 250, and 251) and the lecture hall in Everson Hall. As the work group’s experience planning and managing these projects has grown, so has the campus’s financial commitment, from $1 million in 2014 to an anticipated $6 million annually, for three years, to invest in technology and aesthetic upgrades.

With an ambitious vision of upgrading each general assignment classroom once per decade, the work group convened by Matt Traxler, Psychology Professor and Associate Vice Provost for Academic Planning, greatly appreciates the support from just about every corner of campus.

“We’re seeing wider recognition that we need to care for our existing classroom stock, even as we pursue ambitious new classroom projects like California Hall,” he said. 

Getting It Right for Students

The efforts appear to be helping the work group meet goal No. 1: improving the student learning experience, by providing instructors a better space in which to teach. The work group conducts annual surveys to assess faculty’s satisfaction with classrooms, which is how UC Davis has come to understand the strongly held preferences instructors have for either chalk- or whiteboards, for example.

In addition, the work group conducted exit polling of students as they left a newly remodeled Hart Hall classroom earlier this year.

“The data couldn’t have been clearer that students prefer the newly renovated rooms over their older counterparts,” said Traxler. “As a professor, I feel the same way, especially if I’m struggling with older technology — that really impacts my day.” 

Take the Plan and Run With It

The work group finalized its plan for this summer’s projects in the fall of 2016. Lynn Rabena and Eric Paulantonio started the day-to-day management needed to get the work done before the start of fall quarter. Rabena is the academic scheduling and classroom manager with the Office of the Registrar and knows these classrooms well.

“My office receives the feedback from faculty and students on the condition of classrooms, so I’ve appreciated the opportunity to provide input on how a space should be configured to support teaching and learning,” she said.

Paulantonio, assistant director of project management with Design and Construction Management, said all of these spaces are now free of hazardous materials. “A significant portion of this year’s work entailed safely removing asbestos and lead from the classrooms, which will save us a lot of money and time when we next renovate these rooms,” he said.  

The work completed also came in about $500,000 under budget, which Traxler was quick to note has been the case in each of the past three years. “Lynn and Eric do a great job budgeting for the needs of each classroom, clustering the work in a single area and scheduling summer classes away from the project, so workers can concentrate in a space with minimal disruption to students,” he said. The same plan is in place for next year, as crews will begin renovating Olson’s north side.