'Studio' Classrooms

Rensselaer uses computers to replace large lectures in introductory courses

Troy, New York -- Jack M. Wilson makes an unscheduled stop as he crosses the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He wants to demonstrate the wrong way to use computers in the classroom.

He ducks into the rear of a half-empty lecture hall, where an unsuspecting professor stands next to a computer at the front of the room. Images flash on the screen above the instructor while reclining students glance upward, some scribbling notes.

This, Mr. Wilson says, is "the