Ohio University

JOUR Capstone Classroom takes classroom creativity to new levels

JOUR Capstone Classroom takes classroom creativity to new levels
Students write on the whiteboard walls while working on a class project during Lecturer Daniel Farkas’ Strategic Communication Writing (JOUR 3700) class in the JOUR Capstone Classroom on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. / photo by Margaret Sabec

ATHENS, Ohio—Students in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism have a new outlet for their creative ideas and classroom assignments, and it comes in the form of classroom walls and windows they can write on.

The JOUR Capstone Classroom is located in Scripps Hall, Room 210, that has six pillars and three walls that students are encouraged to write on. The walls are painted with special whiteboard paint that can be written on with regular dry erase whiteboard markers and erased. Students can even write on the windows. It can transform from a creative, idea strewn space, to a basic white walled room with just a few swipes of an eraser.

“This space is for writing on, it is a space for ideas,” said E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Director Dr. Bob Stewart. “The way I explain it is, there is very little distance between the idea and the expression of the idea. You don’t have to pull out your computer and start up a gadget, you just walk over and write on the wall.”

To some, the JOUR Capstone Classroom might seem a little rough around the edges. The floor is bare concrete, the furniture seems a little mismatched and there are some industrial pipes on the walls (painted with whiteboard paint of course). However, that is the vision that Stewart had all along.

“I wanted this to be more like a loft, factory space, that would be gritty, and just the ideas were all that mattered, not the furniture,” said Stewart. “It is more or less how I hoped it would be. It’s not about something cool looking, except it is sort of cool looking because of how rough it is.”

Walking into the room during a class session, such as lecturer Daniel Farkas’ Strategic Communication Writing (JOUR 3700) class, showcases the energy and flow the room provides. In some regards, the classroom can bring to mind some corporate or agency settings more so than a traditional classroom environment.  

“To me movement is everything, pace of play matters and I think that motion creates energy in the class,” said Farkas. “From a writing perspective they can brainstorm there and they can use it [the walls] if they want to. The room is large enough and structured enough where they can break into groups that they can still have a little bit of privacy if they want it. For example, next week the capstone class will have an 80-minute class with small group work and they can take care of it in that classroom instead of trying to find space at Alden Library during a busy hour. It allows students to physically get up and go somewhere, and for me that is very helpful.”

This is the first semester that Farkas has taught in the JOUR Capstone Classroom. During a typical class session Farkas will switch between a PowerPoint lecture, group discussion, writing points on the walls himself and occasionally small group work depending on the class. Overall, students seem to appreciate the new classroom design.

We use the whiteboard walls,” said Tyler Prich a junior strategic communication major. “Its really different, its really nice to have something other than having everyone stare at a single whiteboard. It gets us involved moving around the class, so it's a nice element to add to everything.

Erica Stonehill, a junior strategic communication major, commented, I like the whiteboard walls a lot. It encourages people to participate and do more if they aren't comfortable talking.”

The JOUR Capstone Classroom also includes a green screen wall in the back, where students can film a project or segment against the backdrop wall and replace it with a virtual background in an editing program on their smartphone or computer. Sound dampening panels will be added to the room in the future to help control the noise levels in the room as uses for the space continue to evolve.

Scripps Hall has served many purposes and housed many entities on campus, from the previous home of the Lasher Learning Center to the new home of the Barbara Geralds Institute for Storytelling and Social Impact. Before the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism joined the rest of the college in the newly constructed Schoonover Center for Communication it also served as their “clubhouse” according to Stewart.

Scripps Hall was recently renovated during the summer of 2015 and the JOUR Capstone Classroom was fully completed for use this spring semester. Stewart plans to bring the 2016 High School Journalism Workshop students into this space and allow some current Ohio University student organizations to begin using the classroom in the evenings.

“Every school talks about innovation, this is a really good way to show it,” said Farkas. “Yes, it will help as a classroom, but with all of the other components I think this will differentiate what the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism brings to the table and what makes us distinctive. There is a lot of cool things that will come from this as a classroom setting, but also a lot of student organizations will get a lot of benefit from this space over time once they learn about it. I think it’s going to go a long way in building relationships with other student organizations on campus and with perspective students.”

To learn more or to reserve the room, email Sharon Nickels at nickels@ohio.edu or call 593-2539.

To see more photos of the JOUR Capstone Classroom, click here.