Classroom complaints: Tablet desks not cutting it

Classroom complaints: Tablet desks not cutting it

When students are trying to concentrate in class, listen attentively to their professors’ lectures and take detailed notes, the last thing they should have to worry about is whether or not they’ll be comfortable in their seats.

Unfortunately, this is a problem for some Grand Valley State University students who take classes in rooms with tablet desks.

In response to a recent survey conducted by Doug Graham, a GVSU professor of biomedical sciences, a notable portion of students who use tablet desks on a regular basis expressed dissatisfaction with their classroom seating arrangement. One complaint was the scant availability of desks oriented for left-handed students, while another common grievance was the discomfort of the desks themselves, which are smaller than traditional desks to allow for more of them to be crammed into a classroom. The seats can be particularly cramped for taller students.

In addition, the desks can only reasonably fit a tablet—hence the name “tablet desk”—as opposed to a laptop or a laptop-notebook combination. Given that the majority of students still use traditional laptops and notebooks to take notes during class, this is obviously an issue. 

GVSU students certainly pay enough in tuition each year to expect to be reasonably accommodated in their classrooms. Having to adjust to a cramped seat or struggle to take notes because of desk orientation is distracting and takes away from students’ learning experience.

The university’s proposed solution to this dilemma is to import some more tablet desks designed for left-handed students. While this might alleviate one issue, it fails to account for the lack of sitting and note-taking space. 

It seems odd that the university would be so adamant to make these chairs work. Why is it so urgent to squeeze as many students as possible into a classroom? The university prides itself on its small average class size (26 students), so why the urgency to shove more chairs and more students into each classroom? 

For many—if not all—students, the ideal learning space doesn’t include being squished in a room populated by too many people and tiny desks. It’s hard enough to be comfortable with a “normal” desk. Maybe seating arrangements seem like a side note to learning, but when you are sitting for hours on end listening to lectures and taking notes, the comfort (or lack thereof) of a desk is pretty hard to ignore.

Students need to know that their voice counts. The survey pretty clearly displayed that students who have experience with tablet desks are not happy with them, even disregarding the left-handed issue. The purpose of conducting this kind of research is to identify problems,  and the next step should be to find a real solution—not a halfway one.