By Koh Bi Fang, SMU School of Information Systems
Earlier this year, I was delighted to learn that SMU Labs will be open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Gone are the days of camping in the library or at my school building during the projects submission and study weeks.
What is SMU Labs, you say?
This is SMU Labs.
SMU Labs, home of the newly established SMU-X programme, is our university’s newest learning experiment. Located in the former MPH building, which SMU has leased for the next 5 years, SMU Labs was designed to create a more conducive place for students to carry out collaborative learning and discussion.
As soon as the new semester began, SMU Labs threw a party to commerce its official opening. There were free flow of food and drinks, provided by SMU Students’ Association (SMUSA) and SMU International Connections (SMU ICON), which went on for four whole hours! Needless to say, I was there. And it felt like the entire university was there with me.
I took a guided tour and was introduced to the new facilities in SMU Labs. Here are some of my favourite facilities, which I foresee using often in my last few semesters in SMU.
1. Huddle Room
The Huddle Room provides a very comfortable environment for us to hold our discussions. The walls in this room are thumb-tack friendly, to allow us to pen pin down our thoughts. It also serves as a cozy space for hanging out and chilling during our breaks.
Unlike the usual chairs that we see in seminar rooms, the Huddle Room is filled with tons of vibrant coloured beanbags and sofas. Trust me, the squishy beanbags don’t only look good, they’re very comfortable too. Once I flopped onto a beanbag, I had a hard time peeling myself off.
2. White Room
Ever stepped into a room where the four walls are made up of whiteboards? If you haven’t, you need to check out SMU Labs’ White Room. This room encourages ideas and creativity to flow endlessly. We are allowed to write anywhere in the room – the walls, tables and even on the floor.
The White Room is the perfect place for us to carry out our discussions, especially when a sheet of A4 sized paper, or even a whiteboard, feels insufficient for us to scribble down our thoughts.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m heading to the White Room, I’ll avoid wearing anything white in case someone mistakes me for another whiteboard.
3. One Button Studio
As you probably know by now, SMU is known for doing things differently. At SMU Labs, this is a room designed for students to practice and record their presentations. Presentations contribute to a significant part of our grades, and I’d say this room is perfect for students who are looking to improve their public speaking skills.
Being in my junior year in SMU, I’ve sat through many presentations where I’ve witnessed my peers fidgeting a lot due to nervousness. Sometimes I wonder if I unknowingly do that during my presentations too. I’ve used my computer’s webcam to record myself practicing a presentation, and it made me more conscious of the need to move more naturally so as to project more confidence. As such, I think the One Button Studio is ingenious for its recording capabilities, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks so.
If you are looking to use the One Button Studio, do remember to bring your USB thumb-drive to save your presentations after recording. And of course, don’t forget your presentation “script” as well.
4. Active Learning Classroom
The Active Learning Classroom has a pretty interesting concept. Instead of having fixed furniture, almost everything in the classroom – the chairs, tables and even the whiteboards – is movable. This makes it easier for students to shift it around to accommodate larger groups for discussions, unlike in seminar rooms where the U-shaped seating arrangement can make it awkward to gather in small groups.
In the Active Learning Classroom, we can easily form a circle even if the group is huge. And with mobile whiteboards rather than the side-by-side ones in seminar rooms, multiple groups can sit as far apart from each other as they like since the Active Learning Classroom is considerably bigger than the average seminar room.
Another interesting fact about SMU Labs is that the entire first level has adopted the concept of movable furniture as well. We are allowed to combine or separate any groups of tables and chairs, to accommodate the needs of different group sizes.
5. Discussion Zone
Similar to our new library facilities, SMU Labs also caters to students who wish to hold serious project discussions. Each table in the Discussion Zone is spacious enough to fit a team of six to eight, depending on the size of your group members.
The provided TV screens aren’t meant for watching movies – they’re external displays for laptops, which are extremely useful for discussions where we aren’t using collaborative tools such as Google Docs and Dropbox. With these TVs, we no longer need to huddle around a 15-inch laptop and squint our eyes in an attempt to locate the cursor.
On a side note, if you are the fidgety one in the group and have to constantly take short breaks to stay focused, you should probably sit further away from the TV so that it’s easier for you to take your leave without making everyone stand up to let you out.
6. Project Studio
If the Discussion Zone is not enough to fit your entire group, you’ll be pleased to know that SMU Labs has a bigger project room, called the Project Studio.
The Project Studio is tucked away from the other discussion zones, making it more conducive for groups to carry out their meetings. It’s also very spacious, ensuring that your comfort level is not compromised even when you have a bigger group to accommodate.
If you look carefully in the picture above, you’ll notice that there are multiple extension plugs hanging by pulleys, to ensure that students have sufficient electrical outlets for their laptops and other devices. This innovative concept is also unique to the SMU Labs.
7. “Secret Carpeted Corner”
During my visit, I made a wrong turn (while looking for the free food) and found myself face-to-face with a surprised friend who was hiding out with her notes in this little-known corner of SMU Labs.
This place, which I’ve termed the secret carpeted corner, is perfect if you need some time for reflection or “me-time”. The fluffy carpet, colourful beanbags and perfect amount of sunlight make the entire place feel so homely. This secret corner overlooks the Lee Kong Chian School of Business, and is great for people-watching. (Just don’t be too obvious about it or you’ll look like a stalker…)
8. Quiet Zone
The Quiet Zone is another corner in SMU Labs where we can do our revision quietly. If you are someone who needs power naps, you shouldn’t miss out on this place – it has the most comfortable and plushy sofa beds.
My favourite place in the Quiet Zone is a particular cozy corner that’s slightly tucked away, where you will not be distracted by the students who walk in and out of the Quiet Zone looking for a place to rest or study (though people may peek in occasionally). This corner overlooks the busy street in front of Timbre, which could be a source of motivation if you are planning to head down for a drink or two after you call it a day.
9. Apple TVs
Apple users will be thrilled to know this – SMU Labs has Apple TVs that enable students to connect their Apple gadgets via AirPlay.
With this feature, Apple users can bid goodbye to frantically borrowing VGA adaptors (when we have forgotten our own) from friends or even strangers. Even iPhones and iPads can project to Apple TVs, which is great for last minute project meetings. Talk about convenience!
10. One more thing…
The SMU Photo Wall features students who are as excited as I am for the launch of SMU Labs. As a student at SMU, this photo wall not only features my friends, but my SMU family. It reminds me of the friendships that I’ve forged in SMU and it gives me a sense of belonging.
From my experience so far, I can safely say that SMU Labs has to be one of the most comfortable places to study or even hang out at. Come down to experience it for yourself!