7 strategies universities can use to DESIGN & DEVELOP INNOVATIVE LEARNING SPACES

Over the past decade there has been a huge shift in approach to the design of learning spaces in higher education. As technology continues to advance with the rapid pace of change, so too are student demands and expectations when it comes to learning.

As a result, universities are looking to new innovative ways of teaching, with a big focus on linking pedagogy to learning space design, and how technology can best be utilised in these spaces to improve student engagement and learning outcomes.

Ahead of New Generation Learning New Zealand 2016, we take a look at 7 key strategies universities and schools across Australia and New Zealand are using to design innovative learning spaces to remain relevant to the digital student.

1 Establish a unique learning environment
Swinburne University of Technology is one university which is seeing its students benefit from a space developed and designed specifically for interactive online learning to drive better student learning outcomes.

Four years ago the University and online employment giant SEEK, established Online Education Services (OES) to create engaging online learning experiences for students.

OES’ first endeavor is Swinburne Online, which provides online degrees and postgraduate qualifications for Swinburne students, transforming teacher led units to suit an online environment.

According to Dr. Jay Cohen, Learning Design Manager, OES, while Swinburne has had a big focus on digital learning delivery in the higher education space for some time now, the key to success has been creating a unique learning environment for students and staff.

“There are a few elements that make our approach unique. The first is our student-centric approach which underpins the support services we provide from orientation to graduation for our students.

“We have a thorough orientation for students, seven-day support services, on-demand assignment assistance and tutoring services as well as a bespoke social network platform called ‘Connect,’ which we use to keep students connected to the broader student and staff community,” he says.

Essentially, OES is taking on-campus content and trying to fit it into an online environment – which Jay says has not come without challenges.

“What we are finding, is that what works on campus may not necessarily work in an online environment.

If you’re building an online learning space from scratch, it is actually a completely different design from a classroom based design.

Feeding classroom based content into an online environment does create challenges, because elements of design that are in the campus don’t rolling over into an online environment.

Designing and building an online learning space is not about transferring what you are doing on campus to online – it doesn’t work that simply.

For example, in a traditional university environment a lecture might run somewhere between 80 and 110 slides per lecture. But we can’t put Power Point slides in an online environment. So we have to think in a completely different way when it comes to designing content, as well as assessments – particularly when it comes to group work.

Group activities or group assessments in a classroom environments means students can go and sit at a table and discuss and collaborate in person. In the online environment, there is no classroom which makes it significantly more difficult to facilitate collaborative learning,” he explains.

In order to overcome such challenges, Jay and his team have focused on integrating new and innovative technologies to provide a more collaborative and innovative learning experience for students.

“We have had to reimagine what it means to collaborate in order to foster an engaged online learning community through the use of video, audio and other technological resources, which has created an interactive environment,” he says.

These insights are part of an exclusive report with seven leading universities from Australia and New Zealand. The report delves into new generation learning spaces and explores blending the vitual with the physical, future-proofing learning spaces, catering to different learning and teaching styles and the use of data analytics in creating personalised learning spaces.

For more information on our New Generation Learning New Zealand 2016 event please download the brochure. The even brings together over 20 speakers and leading innovators and explores key considerations relevant to ensuring a pedagogically receptive and innovative campus for 21st Century learners. 

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