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`Black hole´ lecture room rumours investigated

The small auditorium was said by some students to be unsuitable for learning. The University Post attended class to find out why

It is on the Faculty of Social Sciences’ campus at CSS in Copenhagen. A lecture room in the basement, next to the kindergarten, number 25.01.53.

Another University Post reporter had been tipped off that this room was a bad one, and I was sent to investigate. Students are cold there, they said. They are bothered by the noise from the kindergarten, and they can’t hear the teacher in the room because of bad audibility. There is no natural light. And the pads for notebooks and computers are uncomfortable.

Even lecturers admitted to students that this room, in particular, was cold in the winter. There is not much light here, they said, but everybody just has to deal with it.

See a photo gallery of the controversial lecture room here.

Noise from kids playing

Now bad lecture rooms are a big problem. If conditions are bad, the worse it goes for students with the studies. So I decided to turn up to class, see for myself, and ask around for the opinions of the students and teachers.

So I sat down at the back.

Right away I found it hard to hear the teacher speaking. And then there was, in fact, noise from the kids playing in the kindergarten right next to the lecture room.

So what is the problem, exactly?

I noticed that there are big speakers in the room. Maybe the teachers should be given a microphone and the ones that are more quiet should use it? I thought.

I asked Christian Carstensen, an economics student, about it. He said the loud speakers had been tried out, but they would make an irritating noise. And the room is really too dark, he said. His class starts at 8.00 AM on Friday mornings and the room at that time is darker than for the classes that take place later. His study colleague Eline whom I met earlier said that »it is very cold in here,« and added that she doesn’t enjoy learning this way.

It was, in fact, dark in the room. I sat here for 20 minutes, but I wondered how hard it would be to concentrate if a student had to sit in the room for three hours. Maybe it could be fixed by installing brighter lights.

‘I have no complaints’

Anthropology student Sharan Kaur, from Manchester, England, agrees.

»The room is pretty depressing. But then, rooms in the basement would be. The main problem for the room is the lack of natural light,« she says.

Her anthropology student colleague Tomas Cole from Norway contradicts her. The room is alright, he says: »I do not have any big complaints about the room,« he says. He is used to some bad lecture rooms in Norway, and adds that he, for one, has not heard complaints about the room from other students.

For a basement, this is good

So I guess it is time to ask the teaching staff.

Economics teacher Grone H. Høegh is not concerned about room 25.01.53: »The room is fine,« he asserts. »For a basement room, this room is pretty good. Well, maybe it is a bit dark, but for a basement room it is still good. We used to have worse rooms when the campus was still on the other side, but now, that we moved to the old hospital, there are no such rooms that are that bad,« he says. Sure there could be problems for some students to hear the teacher, but he has not received complaints, he added.

Anthropology teacher Vibeke Steffen lectures in this room too. For her the room 25.01.53 is not bad. »The room is OK, and there are other rooms in the basement that are worse,« she says, referring to the basement rooms in the building 18.

If you think this room is bad

Vibeke Steffen tells me that in many lecture rooms there are some other bad aspects, for example, for rooms in building seven – there are columns that almost divide the room in two different rooms. Anthropology teacher Lars Christian Kofoed Rømer agrees with Vibeke about the columns in building seven.

»It’s like you have to be in this side of the room for some students and then you have to be in the other side of the room for the students that sit in the other part. The students have also been complaining about this, sometimes they even ask the teacher to come to their side. There is no central point for a teacher to stand, he has to be moving around,« he says.

Problems can be solved

So what can I conclude from all this? It is clear that many students find the basement room depressing. But short of feeding all students with anti-depressants before the lecture starts, there probably is no way of fixing this problem.

The lighting and audibility can be improved. I observed no problems apart from this, that could not be solved, however, now that everyone knows that the room has some issues. As economics student Christian Carstensen puts it: »The room is not so great,« before adding a subtle but important modification:

»But it could be worse.«

See a photo gallery of the controversial lecture room here.

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