a framework for designing student learning environments for the future

Study Tour

Five members of the Spaces for Knowledge Generation project team conducted a study tour during January 2009 aimed at collecting case studies of a range of different learning spaces from tertiary institutions renowned for their teaching excellence. Site visits, meetings and videotaped interviews were conducted at a variety of places including:  Stanford University, Apple, Harvard University, MIT, Kings College London, University of Cambridge, The Open University (UK), Sheffield Hallam University and TU Delft (Netherlands).

Stanford University on January 12 2009

The SKG Project interviews Rich Holeton at Stanford University on January 12 2009

During these site visits we conducted a series of semi-structured interviews with people involved in the design and management of learning spaces at each institution.  We ask them about what has and hasn’t worked in each of the spaces. The interviewees speak with great insight and passion about how learning spaces affect student experience and learning: clips of some of these are available on the project website.

Wallenberg Hall at Stanford, a $15M facility featuring a series of innovative collaborative learning spaces. The director spoke of the role of the teacher in these high-tech spaces as ‘the irreplaceable element’.

Wallenberg Hall, Stanford University

Wallenberg Hall, Stanford University

Informal learning spaces were also a focus of the tour. Student Street, which runs inside the Stata Center at MIT is an excellent example of the way student life can be enhanced through the provision of study friendly seating, power, wifi networking, alongside student services and food outlets.

Student Street, Stata Center, MIT

Student Street, Stata Center, MIT

We returned to Student Street a number of times in the two days at MIT and we noticed that every one of the spaces was used extensively, yet it never seemed crowded.

Harvard University was striking in the extent to which it melded tradition and technology, the ‘plasma-to-chalk continuum’. Traditional technology was kept, even while state-of-the- art technology was installed unobtrusively in ancient lecture theatres.

Lecture theatre, Harvard

Lecture theatre, Harvard

Harvard also allowed for ‘milling spaces’, large undetermined areas in which students could stage academic events or simply socialize.

Milling spaces, Harvard

Milling spaces, Harvard

In newly constructed buildings, Harvard installed semi-transparent glass walls around postgraduate rooms, to encourage writing on all surfaces.

Writable wall surface, Harvard

Writable Wall Surface, Harvard

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Support for this project website has been provided by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council Ltd, an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  The views expressed in the project do not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Learning and Teaching Council.


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