Flexible Learning Spaces: Beyond the Factory

by Margie
The rapid technological, economic, social and political changes our society is experiencing makes our future unpredictable. The human skills most effective to cope with this change are curiosity and creativity. Success in this new world also relies on agility, innovative thinking and effective collaboration. The design of learning spaces is moving beyond teacher-centred models where the teacher has been the focus of attention. Students, no longer just an audience, are allowed greater flexibility and individual learning is supported. Curiosity is encouraged and collaboration is the foundation of this student-centred approach.  The design of learning spaces should promote sharing of knowledge and provide multiple opportunities for interaction to discuss, shape and explore concepts. Inspired by The Danish University and Property Agency research, Edmiston Jones GBB have designed several flexible learning spaces for clients that include the University of Wollongong and Edmund Rice College. The goal with these projects was to create environments where choice is plentiful, collaboration encouraged, and agility achieved through spaces that can be easily modified to suit different activities. The key is flexibility which ...
  • doesn't mean everything is on wheels (although this can be part of a solution);
  • encourages student engagement by discouraging “habituation” (the feeling of familiarity about a space and lack of surprise); and
  • provides variety of spaces to suit different learning tasks (large, small, open, enclosed).
[caption id="attachment_2955" align="aligncenter" width="1800"]2864 Creative Space Science[/caption] At the University of Wollongong, Early Start Facility, the lecturer has the choice of being embedded within the student cohort, move around and communicate with the students or demonstrate at the front of the room. In this way, students experience greater engagement with the subject matter and a stronger connection with teaching staff. [caption id="attachment_2956" align="aligncenter" width="800"]body-image Interactive Research Hub & Learner Centred Space[/caption] Design elements that allow flexibility include:
  • wireless/wired connectivity,
  • surfaces that can perform a variety of functions (e.g. space divider, whiteboard, pinboard etc), and
  • re-configurable modular furniture.
[caption id="attachment_2953" align="aligncenter" width="2560"]p1080896 Narandha Learning Centre[/caption] At Edmund Rice College a variety of teaching and learning environments have been designed for classes, small groups and individuals, including the staff. The Narandha Learning Centre is a multi-functional “library” with a video conference room, Information Technology (IT) spaces, intimate collaboration zones, open breakout zones as well as class rooms that can open up to extend the library. The Edmund Rice College Narandha Learning Centre has greatly evolved from the traditional “silent” library of the past and transformed into a hub offering multiple learning experiences. It’s a space where you may even see a student sitting quietly strumming on a guitar.
Flexible Learning Spaces: Beyond the Factory