Four reasons why UNSW’s new learning space is improving student learning outcomes

UNSW’s Business School has introduced a new approach to campus learning throughout their new learning space ‘The Place’ – Peer Learning and Creative Exchange.

‘The Place’ is based on the flipped learning model and has transformed the traditional classroom where teachers are taking on the role of facilitators rather than lecturers and enabling students to work in teams to solve new problems, apply  their knowledge and develop the skills needed to be successful in today’s workforce.

Since the introduction and opening of the ‘The Place’ in early 2014, student learning outcomes have improved significantly, as well as overwhelming positive feedback from students and staff about the new learning style.

Ahead of New Generation Learning Space Design, Nick Wailes, Associate Dean (Digital and Innovation) at UNSW Business School, shares four reasons why ‘The Place’ is improving learning outcomes:

1. The unique design facilities collaborative learning

‘The Place’ is really about bringing students together to work with each other to solve problems. The set up of the tables enables creative exchange because when students are at the tables they are facing each other – not facing a lecturer. They are essentially part of a group, which is a really important element.

There are also screens for each of those group areas. Each workspace (or table) has a screen, which are then surrounded by whiteboards. So there is an area to collectively come together and share ideas.

The other design element which enhances peer to peer learning is the different levels in these rooms. In some of the spaces students stand up, some of them they sit down and it encourages active interactions. So people are getting up and down and walking around and it’s that flexibility and the idea of being able to reconfigure and bring great ideas together, that’s really the heart of peer led learning.

2. The space fosters creativity

Since the opening of ‘The Place’ we have spent a lot of time speaking to students about what the experience is like have discovered two things. The first is they feel like they get to know their classmates a lot better because rather than sitting passively side by side of you, they’re actually working with others and that’s enhancing their cross-cultural confidence to work with other students.

The second thing we’ve found is students are able to generate ideas easier, because they actually have to apply knowledge – they actually have to work out solutions to challenges within teams. As a result the learning experience is really enhanced.

3. Technology has been incorporated into design

During the design process, we wanted to make sure there is room for future proofing. We spent a lot of time thinking how we are going to use the technology to meet the needs to students not only now, but in the future as well.

Another important element is ensuring that there is enough bandwidth for every single student to have a half a dozen devices and for them still to have a fast connection. In the spaces, there are PC’s built in to every table and there’s a hardware switching solution which means faculty can show the same screen all the way around the room, or they can unplug all those screens so that individual screens with individual work.

Another technological element that has worked really well is voice amplification. We’ve got quite good audio, which means you can walk around the room and be in a conversation rather than just being shouted at. There are lots of little tricks and I think it’s really great to work with professionals who have an understanding of adult learning as well as an understating of design.

4. The results speak for themselves

We’re using various tools to measure the impact and effectiveness the place is having on student learning. One very raw measure of effectiveness is capacity utilization, which means wherever possible, staff will run their classes. We’re already at 100 per cent capacity which is great because it means the spaces are actually working.

Student attendance is another interesting metric. Like a lot of institutions, all our lectures are available through eco360 and students don’t necessarily need to come here to learn. But what we’re finding is when a class is run in one of these rooms, everybody shows up because they know they’re actually getting something out of the experience of being in the classroom. For us, that’s a really strong metric.

We also interviewed Nick at ‘The Place’ – you can watch the full exclusive video interview here or download the full interview transcript here.

Nick will be leading a site-visit at New Generation Learning Spaces 2015 where he will further explore and demonstrate how the new learning space at UNSW Business School has been specially designed to facilitate a new style of teaching and learning.

Early Bird rates end this Friday 19th Decemberregister now and save up to $1100.00.

For more information visit or call +61 2 9229 1000 or drop us an email on


Current trends in international education in a global context

Australia is in an unusual position when it comes to international education. Unlike other countries, international education has long been a key element in the nation’s prosperity and growth.

It’s the country’s third largest export after iron ore and coal, and in 2013 was the largest service export.

And it seems more and more countries are figuring out what Australia has known for a while: the revenue generated from international student enrollments can have massive benefits economically.

As a result, the market has become fiercely competitive. Students now have more choice than ever when it comes to studying aboard, forcing universities to re-think their marketing and recruitment strategies.

Speaking at last week’s International Student Recruitment and Marketing Conference, Professor Monique Skidmore, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Queensland, shared that while the industry is seeing a growth in totally mobile global students, the entry of new players has resulted in a decline of international enrollment in major universities worldwide.

“In 2012 five destination countries hosted over one half of totally mobile global students. The US hosted 19 per cent, the UK 11, per cent, France seven per cent and Australia and Germany at six per cent.

But the top five also saw their share of international enrollment decline from 55 per cent in 2000 to 47 per cent in 2012. In our part of the world Australia and Japan are rivaled and will soon be eclipsed by new comers like China, Malaysia, the Republic of Korea, Singapore and New Zealand,” she said.

So what strategies can universities use to remain relevant in the wake of new competition?

Professor Skidmore believes it all comes down to brand and capacity building from research excellence and seeking research funding through partnerships with some of the best universities and private organisations in the world.

“In the last decade an emerging key strategy to build and maintain a prominent global position has been through partnerships and consortia. Virtually all the world’s top 50 universities are creating several significant university corporate industry partnerships as part of their global strategy,” she said.

Despite the importance of partnerships, according to Professor Skidmore this strategy is in its intensification phase now and will globally only last for another five years as a key strategy.

“In five years time most of the large universities will have finished their partnership strategies and settled on how many partnerships they’re going to have and resource,” she explained.

The University of Queensland is using a tri-lateral partnership model where they are partnering with global private companies who also have links to some of the top universities worldwide.

“We choose for example a big mining company or engineering firm and we find out which top 50 universities in the world that company is working with, and then we partner with that university as well. That’s how we’re creating out partnerships and then commercialisation comes with this,” Professor Skidmore said.

While partnerships certainly have a big role to play in driving international student numbers in Australia, the take home message from the event last week is that universities don’t need to settle on international student numbers that are consistent with their overall university financial sustainability.

“I think these numbers have to settle around niche product demand in various modes. Universities need an onshore and offshore and online strategy and settle and agree on the delivery of student loans. Setting targets and strategies around competitor analysis, future higher education demand and partnerships will be crucial,” said Professor Skidmore.

If you’d like to find our more about our International Student Recruitment and Marketing Conference drop us an email at or call +61 2 9229 1000.

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