As a graduate student overseeing the Language Lab in Burnett Hall, Allysha Martin saw her surroundings and outdated technology she helped undergraduate students use, and dreamed of more.
From the collection of VHS tapes to the well-worn cassette tape decks and old headphones, Martin knew the Language Lab was in need of a facelift if students were going to keep utilizing the space.
“I love working with students and helping them learn,” Martin said. “But the Language Lab was not a comfortable space and didn’t have the right tools for today’s students.”
Martin is now a faculty member at Milligan College in Tennessee. But before she left UNL, she and Casandra Siefkes, assistant in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, submitted a Language Lab renovation proposal to the College of Arts and Sciences. With funding from the college and Academic Affairs, the renovation was completed in the spring 2013 semester with some finishing touches taking place over the summer months.
The Language Lab, 303 Burnett Hall, will celebrate its grand re-opening with a 1 to 3 p.m. Oct. 3 open house. The event will include remarks from Ellen Weissinger, senior vice chancellor for Academic Affairs; Joe Francisco, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Evelyn Jacobsen, department chair.
The Language Lab was last updated in the early 1990s. Cubicle stations included the tape decks and small TVs. It was state of the art for the time, but became obsolete as technology advanced from personal computers and laptops to smart phones and tablets.
Before construction began, Martin spent months logging the cassette and VHS tapes and other items that hadn’t been used by students in many years.
The old cubicles and office environment has been replaced with a study lounge, individual study stations and large group tables. The Language Lab offers 30 iPads for students to use in the lab, each loaded with learning apps and other software for completing assignments. Faculty and students can request additional apps and software if needed.
The lab also has two 70-inch smart TVs. They can be connected to the Internet, international news channels or used for viewing foreign films, accessed through the lab’s Netflix subscription.
“It really can be immersive,” Siefkes said. “You can do your homework and have a foreign film or Russian news going on in the background.”
The changes to the Language Lab also reflect an increasingly global society. In an effort to allow intercultural exchanges, a wall was constructed in the lab to create a new room, which was outfitted into a global classroom. There are now three screens, microphones and software dedicated for classes to connect with peers across the globe.
Since the lab opened, more than 500 students have logged time there. That shows Siefkes that the lab update was a project worth the time and funding.
The lab is open for student and faculty use during the week and can be reserved for use on off-hours. For more information, click here.