• Sarah Luiz

Next-Generation Learning Spaces

Updated: May 7

Next-Generation learning spaces will be ‘flipped’

The teacher no longer needs to stand at the front of the class to impart their wisdom, and students don’t come to class just to listen. So they don’t need to sit in rows facing the front. And why do we even need a “front”?

In the education system of the future, homework will happen before the lesson. “Teachers can record structured content for you to absorb at your own pace,” says John Holm at SocioDesign. Then when you come into the classroom, they can help you solve the problem.”

This is the “flipped” classroom. It’s bigger: Holm says that traditional desks in rows allowed around 1m2 per student. In an active learning space, that rises to 3m2. And it’s totally wired: multiple monitors allow students to review course materials and look things up on the internet as an intrinsic part of the classroom experience. This combination of traditional teaching and online media is called “blended learning”.

Schools and universities will need a much wider variety of places for learning — from spaces where large groups can work together to secluded corners for concentration, and everything in between.

“We have moved away from the notion of students in rows reverently listening to a guru at the front, to more interactive, technology-rich learning environments where the relationship between teacher and student is radically different”

Stefan Jakobek, HOK

Collaboration will be a core skill. As routine tasks are taken over by computers, workers will be valued for the creativity and intuition that only the human mind can offer (for now). They will be prized for their ability to innovate, communicate and collaborate in global teams.

For universities, innovation is crucial as they compete for funding — scientific breakthroughs can be patented and licensed, and a high research ranking helps them to attract fee-paying students. “They’re beginning to break down the silos for faculties and departments and instead talk about the need to glue people together in different ways,” says Philip Ross, founder and CEO of consultant Unwork.

“Design is about creating ways to bring people together, who may not be used to the idea, into a rich, collaborative environment,” says Stefan Jakobek, education lead at HOK.

“The idea is to put disparate people together in one place, so maybe if a person studying Ebola bumps into someone focused on the human genome, they might have this great conversation and new ideas are sparked.”

“You don’t just learn in the classroom or lecture hall, you learn from each other, you learn outside, at the dining table or the coffee shop. Two or three students sitting around a table with their laptops is a wonderful learning environment”

Stefan Jakobek, HOK

Much of this work must take place in secure labs. “So you create layers of space, some of which are discrete and others more collaborative. At one end, you might have a secure laboratory, at the other a social space where researchers from different disciplines can just sit and talk about the meaning of life. We’re looking to interconnect people physically and visually — the atrium at the Crick Institute in London allows users to look up or down at what’s happening. Ideas happen in the corridor almost as much as the laboratory. What you don’t want is a building full of enclosed spaces.”

This is a common theme for university design - a new cross-disciplinary college to influence thought across every discipline on the campus. It must become a catalyst for new ideas.”

More social models of learning also work better as tertiary education has expanded, says Holm. “When my generation was at uni, there were 60 people in a lecture and 10-15 in a seminar. These days, there might be 300 people at a lecture and 60 at a seminar. Previously the person with all the knowledge could engage with everyone in the room. Now most of our systems are too large for that personal connection to work. So moving to small group learning reflects an acknowledgment that the old style of didactic teaching isn’t working any more. Work is no longer a place that you go, it’s something that you do, and it’s the same for learning. We’re moving away from fixed technologies that anchor you down to a piece of wood. There’s still a need for specialised spaces for different activities, but the emphasis is now on a mix of spaces and giving people a choice” Philip Ross, Unwork

Technology is at the heart of the learning space of the future.

“When technology arrived in the classroom, all it was doing was enhancing the blackboard or the whiteboard or the projection surface,” says Roneel Singh, technology systems director at WSP in Australia. “We wanted to look at how it could enhance the content or the role of the teacher, rather than just having the teacher behind a Starship Enterpr-style control panel.”

In the mid 2000s, Singh’s team started working with the Association of University Technology Managers to develop technology in teaching spaces, taking inspiration from some unlikely sources — such as U2’s pioneering “in-the-round” staging from the 360° tour. “It was all about changing the style of teaching, to make it more intuitive and interactive. To make lectures as valuable as possible while people are there, so they’re not just listening to something they could have watched on a video. They are actually able to immerse themselves in the environment.”

In this new kind of learning space, students use multiple media sources simultaneously, sitting alongside people from different disciplines who are solving very different problems, alone or in groups. “Learning shouldn’t be a one-way flow of information,” says Singh. “The technology needs to support real-time student-to-student, teacher-to-student and student-to-teacher interaction. Today we can use the flexibility of data networks and software to create dynamic learning environments, without the huge cost and rigidity of traditional AV infrastructure.”

SOURCE: The Possible


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