Learning, upended

Published May 2017; Updated January 2020

If there's a better way to do something that matters, Purdue wants to find it and do it. Nothing's off the table — not even practices used for so long they seem untouchable. Take learning. Lots of people see it as something that happens in a classroom where students sit quietly, face forward and take notes from a lecturing educator. That still happens at Purdue, but not nearly as often as it used to. That's because active — not passive — learning, is increasingly taking its place here.

Millions where our mouth is

If you come to campus, you can't miss Purdue's latest effort to walk the talk on active learning. It's a huge building (170,390 square feet!) in the middle of campus. Named the Wilmeth Active Learning Center, it opened in August 2017. Purdue invested $79 million in it. If that doesn't prove Purdue's dedication to giving students the best and most active ways to learn, nothing could.

Why is this building so special?

It's got a super futuristic design that's all about active learning vs. passive learning. And that's important because of what research indicates. Research shows that, for most people, active learning — the kind that gets you directly involved with what you're learning — is much better than sitting silently and listening to a lecture. At Purdue, where active learning goes on campus-wide, students do team problem-solving, case studies, hands-on work, group projects and peer teaching. Generally, Purdue's active student learners are doing anything that makes them dive into what they learn so they fully understand it, retain it and can use it well.

The whole 360

The Wilmeth Active Learning Center is Purdue's main hub for active learning, but the building has other features that you'll want to check out. It houses library resources for several disciplines and also classrooms that will double as study spaces outside of class time. If you get hungry or thirsty after you settle in to study in the Grand Reading Room, you can stop at the full-service Au Bon Pain Café Bakery.