By: Hailey Temple

In an effort to utilize the available space in Hinds Hall and improve the overall class experience, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) has been making major physical and technical transformations throughout the summer that will extend into the fall semester.

The first major renovation that began over the summer was the iSpace, a shared office facility that caters to faculty members on sabbatical and distance faculty. The iSpace will feature several state-of-the-art and adjustable working stations available to professors who are preparing for classes, working with software, or grading student work. Workgroup space equipped with a large screen LCD and conference phone is available and small portable storage units will also be available to professors to store work in the iSpace. An adjacent space is schedulable for more when private meetings are necessary.

To accommodate the possible increased noise level of a shared facility, faculty will be provided noise-cancelling headphones to increase concentration and create a better working atmosphere. A dedicated concierge service will cater to faculty by reserving rooms around the iSchool, arranging travel accommodations, and providing a personal interface with Faculty Services and IT Services to help with class preparation and other needs while faculty are away.

With faculty and staff office spaces near maximum capacity, Roger Merrill, Assistant Dean for IT Services and Facilities, says the iSpace is an opportunity to maximize space and accommodate all iSchool members. “With restrictions expanding the physical footprint, the iSpace is an innovative way to allow for growth using a hoteling model. This is an experiment that, to my knowledge, has never been tried on campus, but we are excited to see what new opportunities the iSpace will offer to our school.”

The iSpace is near completion, with carpet and furniture installation taking place this week. Once installation is complete, the iSpace will be open and available for faculty members to use. The iSpace will continue to undergo minor changes and improvements throughout the semester.

Within the next few weeks, the Recruitment and  Employer Relations offices will be open on the first floor. While each group will have their own space, the offices will provide a central location for students, parents and businesses to meet with iSchool staff and inquire about job opportunities and get information about the iSchool. New staff will  also be joining the iSchool to accommodate the growing student body and academic programs.

On the technology side, the iSchool is making changes to conference and collaboration rooms by replacing aging projectors with high-quality LCD monitors. Each room will have one or two LCD screens complete with microphones and webcams. In order to schedule space in these rooms, the iSchool is planning on developing interactive screens located outside each room to allow students and staff to schedule available spaces. “With more high-quality images and advanced technology, students will be able to host meetings, conferences, and even interviews in these spaces,” says Merrill. “We hope to foster more impromptu meetings and collaboration among our students by making these advancements.”

The “Laptop Lab” has been updated, with 28 new Dell 6430s available for classes or use within Hinds Hall. As this update comes with the new update cycle, students and faculty should expect increased performance on these new laptops. Rather than dispose of older laptops, the iSchool is planning a lending system that will allow students to borrow laptops for a given time to complete classwork.

In efforts to remain current, various software updates such as SPSS & AMOS 20, and Panopto Recorder 4.2, among others, have been installed to supplement courses, classwork and research throughout the iSchool. “We maintain constant contact with our professors and professionals to maintain the most relevant software and have that accessible to students,” says Merrill. “It is our responsibility to ensure that the technology we have keeps up with the teaching and at times precedes the professional world so students are not only prepared for employment but are the emerging leaders in the information technology field.”