Olle Bälter - on the right - surveyed students' opinions of "walking" versus "sitting" seminars.
Image credit: Håkan Lindgren/KTH
Olle Bälter, lecturer in computer science and associate professor at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, introduced the idea of walking seminars in response to a challenge thrown at the computer science faculty to increase physical activity.
Inspired by a study conducted by Stanford researchers that showed how walking boosts creativity, Prof. Bälter decided to explore how walking during seminars instead of sitting might enhance the experience not only physically, but educationally for his students.
He began by taking 10 students on media technology walking seminars in a wooded park near the Stockholm campus.
Prof. Bälter says he noticed improvements straight away:
"Students feel freer to talk when they are outdoors than when they are in the classroom. It is noticeable how much easier it is for individual students to express their views on these walking seminars, particularly when the class is split into smaller groups."
At the 8th Pedagogical Inspiration Conference at Lund Institute of Technology in Sweden, he described the results of a survey he and his colleagues conducted on 23 students who had been attending his walking seminars.
Of these, 23 students said they "felt better" after the walking seminars compared with sitting seminars, and not one said they felt worse.
Also, 17 of the students said they believed communication among the students was better during walking seminars than sitting ones, compared with only two who said it was worse.
In addition, 12 of the 23 students said they thought the quality of walking seminars was better than the sitting seminars, while only one said it was worse.
Students said they would like more walking seminars
In a final question, the students were asked whether they would like the Institute to offer walking seminar options on more courses: 19 out of 23 said yes, and only two said no.
When asked about the best aspects of the walking seminars, the most common comments were the relaxed atmosphere (14 out of 23 students) and being outdoors in the fresh air (12 of 23). The students also said the discussions were more open (9 of 23), productive (7 of 23) and healthy (7 of 23).
When asked about the worst aspects of walking seminars, there were fewer responses per student, but the most mentioned ones were difficulties communicating with all members of the group (6 of 23), deviation from the subject (4 of 23) and difficulties hearing what was being said (3 of 23).
Prof. Bälter notes that a potential problem is the weather. None of the seminars covered by the survey took place in what might be described as bad weather, but several of the students did express concern about what might happen if it rained.
He suggests it might be a good idea to have a back-up plan; if bad weather is forecast, book an indoor seminar room just in case.
In June 2014, Medical News Today learned that workplaces that favor standing to sitting may be more creative as researchers found they increase group arousal and decrease possessiveness of ideas, which in turn boost performance.