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Office move for some CETE employees bolsters collaboration

Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Rolling tables and double-sided whiteboards are just a few of the design features being used to bolster collaboration and team work in the CETE technology team's new work space. 

Lawrence, KS—Creating a more collaborative work space and housing a growing workforce sparked a recent move off campus for about one-third of the staff of the Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas.

Thirty-eight employees from CETE’s technology department, made up of computer programmers, business analysts, quality assurance specialists, and operations and support staff, have taken over third floor office space in the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America building, located at 1421 Research Park Drive, just west of Bob Billings Parkway and Wakarusa.

The 5,000 square feet of space is more than double the size of their campus offices, which were scattered among three floors of the KU School of Education building, and CETE specifically designed the space to foster collaboration.

Instead of traditional desks and cubicles, each employee has a 60 x 30 inch table, office chair, and small two-drawer file cabinet – all on wheels to allow for quick and easy transformation of the space to meet the needs of the employees and current projects.

Even though the edge of the room is lined with four traditional meeting rooms with floor-to-ceiling walls, most of the space is open with 20 six-foot-high, double-sided whiteboards on wheels separating groups of desks. A white noise generator, a feature of the building, helps to muffle conversations preventing individual groups from disrupting each other.

"We’re trying to create a collaborative work area because teams of people work together to develop software and other products,” said Nicholas Studt, manager of operations who was in charge of the move. “This week a particular team is a certain size, but next week it might grow or shrink by several people depending on where we are in the product development process. Now we’re able to reconfigure the space at a moment’s notice.”

CETE’s collaborative design efforts have received positive feedback from Richard Branham, KU professor of industrial design who has developed collaborative work spaces around the world and who recently toured the space.

“Collaboration is the weakest link in the system because people don’t pay attention to the experience workers are having of their work environment, and that’s the key I see here is how do we maximize that experience for the people occupying work space,” Branham said. “CETE has done a great job in creating a collaborative work space that is attentive to the needs of the workers and can be adapted when change is necessary.”

Office grounds include a walking trail, a small pond, and outdoor seating. Staff also has access to the building’s 85-seat auditorium, large conference room, and a gym-size multi-purpose room.

CETE’s technology department creates the innovative, large-scale assessment programs, online test delivery systems, and technology tools that CETE is known for. During the 2011-2012 school year, CETE administered 4.6 million test sessions online, and 99.8% of Kansas K-12 general and modified assessments were administered by computers using CETE testing software.

CETE is a nationally recognized research center specializing in large-scale assessment and on-line test delivery systems. For more than 30 years, CETE has developed cutting-edge testing programs and technology tools, including the Kansas Assessment Program, Dynamic Learning Maps, KWIET writing tool, and Adaptive Reading Motivation Measures. Through its partnership with the State of Kansas State Department of Education, CETE offers assessments to all 286 Kansas school districts.

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