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SMARTdesks at Gulf Coast State College: The Inside Story

At the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) of Gulf Coast State College, in Panama City, Florida, SMARTdesks furniture is changing how learning happens.

The brand-new ATC opened for fall 2013 classes, and it is fully furnished with top-of-the-line SMARTdesks products. The LEED gold certified facility is 93,500 square feet and the first green building on the Gulf Coast campus. Through the ATC, the college seeks to provide students with the opportunities, resources, and network they need to succeed in a highly competitive global marketplace. To prepare its graduates for success outside of the classroom, the ATC curriculum is incredibly diverse; classes and divisions range from sustainable design to robotics and the culinary arts.

The ATC mission is to provide its students with tools to communicate their skills and strengths in the 21st century job market. Accordingly, the building and its furnishings were designed to accommodate students and faculty who both bring their own devices and use preexisting technology infrastructure. GCSC invested heavily in a “learning convergence” environment, which refers to areas where students can work or have class while collaborating or using information technologies.

SMARTdesks computer desks and furniture — including the Exchange collaboration tables, iGroup, Nesta, Pi, and conference tables for board rooms — are a major component of the building’s open-architecture floor plans. Professors at Gulf Coast have found SMARTdesks furniture’s flexibility to be one of its greatest strengths. Dr. Ariba Garmin, Director of E-learning said, “The furniture SMARTdesks provided allows staff and student to create any learning environment you want. You almost don’t see it at all because you can move it around to suit your needs.”

The Exchange and iGroup, with their reconfigurable shapes, are collaboration tables tailored to the needs of the contemporary classroom. Each computer table element can be arranged in a variety of configurations, depending on the needs of individual teachers and professors. Nesta folds away quickly to clear classroom spaces of computer desks and tables when they aren’t needed. And Pi is the ultimate collaboration tool in the classroom; students can study separately or together in circles and lines.

To complete the ATC project, SMARTdesks collaborated with both Gulf Coast and the architect to construct the “future-forward” optimized learning environment that the college was looking for. Because the breadth of the course of study is so great, SMARTdesks engaged in mass customization to fulfill all of the ATC’s furniture needs. Mass customization means that every furnishing had to fit a divergent set of needs depending on the room for which it was designed. The SMARTdesks design team collaborated for months with the project architects on the design cloud to make sure each product was optimized for its space.

And for an excellent article on the history of learning environments, , a nonprofit dedicated to advancing higher education through the use of technology.