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.
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.
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