Optimizing Informal Learning Spaces: Ten Tips for Universities

31 Aug 2013

By: Dr. Lennie Scott-Webber
Engagement is about learning, not just a transfer of knowledge. With the rise of the digital, diverse, and distributed student, common spaces are emerging as transitional “third places” to gather and collaborate on campuses across the country. Now, it’s more important than ever to make every university space an active learning space- be it media labs, libraries, or lounge areas.
These informal spaces should offer student’s a range of places and the choice and control to select the best environment for their needs. Throughout the semester or even within the same day, students need spaces that support focused, individual study, dyadic work or large team collaborative projects.
Purposely designed, campuses can take advantage of the opportunities represented by these changes and become host to engaged and active learning.
Below are ten guiding tenets for those who plan education spaces to reimagine in-between space real estate to better capture these moments of learning for more effective informal learning spaces:

  1. Provide multiple power outlets for portable technology- smart devices, laptops, etc- to help prevents students from unplugging other equipment to access power.
  2. Consider benching workspaces instead of freestanding desks; they use real estate efficiently, route wires and cables, and are simple to expand or contract.
  3. Design for self-directed learning.
  4. Support individual, dyadic and team work, as well as spaces for instructor demonstration.
  5. Allow for temporary ownership of certain spaces.
  6. Understand the intended user behaviors and design intentionally.
  7. Provide tools for visual display, collaborative technology, information and acoustical privacy.
  8. Consider postural changes for short and long term use.
  9. Support perched and standing short term postures.
  10. Think… multi-purpose, adaptable spaces.

Written by: Dr. Lennie Scott-Webber, Steelcase Education Solutions
For more, see Blended Learning Demands Big Open Spaces

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