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When setting up a computer lab, it is necessary to plan the design in advance so as to serve well the purpose for which the lab was created.
In Uganda, it is rare to find a room that was pre-planned to be a computer lab. Usually, free classroom blocks are fitted with computers turning what was a dormitory or classroom into a computer lab.
In all efforts to have a functional computer laboratory, the maximum use of space while keeping the comfort of users in mind is important. Some of the computer lab layouts you may consider are discussed below.
Classic Classroom Lab Layout
Stations in this layout are arranged just the way a normal classroom is design with all students facing the same direction. This layout allows the instructor to directly face his/her students making it easy for him/her to get clues from their faces.
However, this kind of layout makes it inconveniencing when students and instructors have to move around. It is also tricky for the instructor to know whether the students are focusing on the lesson or doing their own activities.
One of my clients, University World Mission Frontier along Kampala Masaka Rd. has a computer lab that was designed exactly this way. It is neat and gives students a feel of being in a classroom environment.
4-Leaf Clover Lab Layout
This lab layout focuses on privacy for the students. Not only is It good when doing exams but also minimizes inconvenience when students have to enter or leave their seats. However, it may turn out expensive if each students must be given their table.
U-Shaped Lab Layout
This lab layout is good when it comes to engagement between learners and instructors. Unfortunately, the U-shaped design may not be conducive when instructors have to monitor what students are doing and looking at on their monitors.
Inverted U-shape Lab Layout
This one is close to the U-shaped layout only that in this case the students face the wall. It offers a better way for the instructor to monitor their students.
This was the layout I found at St. Martin’s SS – Jjanya when I had gone to do the NComputing setup for their computer lab. The teachers their have ample space and convenience when it comes to monitoring what their students are doing on their stations.
In many cases, it may be necessary to use as much space as may be available in a room. This may arise in a case where the number of computers available is higher than what can fit in the available room using the previous layouts. The following 2 layouts may help you fit more computers in a lab.
I have found this layout in many schools given the fact that maximum use of space is given priority. The computer labs of Trinity College Nabbingo, St. Peter’s SSS Nsambya, Makerere College School, Kitende SS and many more have this type of layout.
Choosing the best layout for your computer lab will depend on the size of lab, number of stations, student-teacher engagement and convenience. While one layout may be economical, the comfort of the users must be put into consideration. The type of technology used plays a role too. It may be easy to play around with the layouts if you are using thin clients like NComputing but harder when deploying standalone PCs.
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