Second Phase of GSR Overhaul Poised to Begin

Group Study Rooms in Huntsman Hall are in the midst of a multi-million-dollar makeover.  And with the Forum-level phase of this three-year project completed over the fall, students can now access the 2.0 experience in any of the newly renovated GSRs.

With more space, better amenities, enhanced privacy, and a wealth of technology upgrades, each space has been transformed from top to bottom. A decision to shift the original layout sideways – along with some structural nips and tucks – affords two extra feet of space; a whiteboard wall is on hand to foster creativity; a Solstice-enabled wall-mounted monitor allows multiple users to simultaneously connect their devices on the same display; a touch-screen control panel can time presentations; and wireless screen sharing – as well as an HD web camera – make it easier to collaborate locally or connect globally. In addition, every room has been freshly appointed with new chairs, brighter lighting, a larger table, and an abundance of strategically placed power outlets with integrated USB ports.

The extensive nature of the overhaul is partly due to the fact that it’s been more than a decade in the making, according to David Siedell, Wharton Computing’s Senior Director of Public Technology. Take the new LCD monitors, he notes. “In 2002 (when Huntsman was built), we actually had single widescreens in the original room design, but at the time they ended up proving too cost-prohibitive.” Since then, he says, the price dropped from more than $20,000 to less than a $1,000.

The in-room PCs have an enhanced user interface enabling wireless screen sharing – a feature that speaks to the primary intent of the room and the overall goal of the renovation: creating the best possible conditions for collaboration.

The design process itself was a collaborative effort. Last year, Wharton Computing – in partnership with Wharton Facilities – unveiled two prototype GSRs (rooms F66 and F67) in order to garner feedback and suggestions from the hundreds of students who used them over two semesters. “What you see today is the result of that pilot run,” Siedell says. “The users we surveyed wanted bigger screens, they wanted the sideways layout, they asked for upgraded webcams – all of this input ended up in the final plan.”

The second level of Huntsman is the next – and by Fall 2016, all four floors of GSRs will reflect the blueprint detailed above. But, student feedback will continue to fuel the process. Wharton Computing teams plan on continuously mining usage data from the completed spaces and soliciting student opinion. “Everything from the software we install to the logic and programming of the rooms will be attuned to user preferences – not only as we go forward with renovating the other levels, but in going back to re-update the finished ones,” Siedell notes. By the time this project is complete, he adds, all of Huntsman’s GSRs will offer the same optimal study experience.