New builds and learning space design – April 2009 Update

New builds and LSC capital funding have been headline news this term for our sector. In London, some of our providers have had to delay embarking on their projects and are obviously disappointed as they have already invested heavily in getting things started.

Our focus on this area has been about providing advice on ILT aspects of new builds and sharing good practice. Our associate advisor Drew Burns has visited some colleges involved in new build projects to talk to SMTs, to discuss key issues about ILT vision, future of IT infrastructure, future learning and future-proofing buildings.

In March, Drew Burns and Richard Everett also presented two case studies in our webinar:  “How can new builds/refurbishment help to transform the student learning experience?”. The report and the archive of this session are available at: http://www.rsc-london.ac.uk/1317/

Key Messages

  • New builds are a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to go back to first principles and ask basic questions about the purposes of college teaching and learning; about who are the users of college spaces and the services that need to be provided for them
  • The pedagogy that the curriculum adopts in a given area and the learning paradigm operating in that area determine the design of the learning spaces. Pedagogy and learning paradigm need to be overtly identified in order to set the demand characteristics for the space design
  • The temptation just to modernise and update  the current facilities misses the opportunity for real teaching and learning innovation and the creation of exciting and motivating learning environments
  • Technology-enriched spaces can provide an opportunity to change the learning paradigm which is too often teacher-focused, and foster anytime, anywhere learning.
  • Though the LSC do not require it at the AiP stage, it is essential to draft a clear ILT vision at the beginning of the planning stages. The demands of the vision determine the ICT infrastructure required and if this aspect is left late in the day, it may not get properly costed and lead to sub-optimal designs and service outcomes. As before, start with the pedagogy and learning paradigm – what learning aims is the institution trying to achieve and how do these need to change over time to ensure best outcomes for learners?
  • Make the building future proof and have flexibility to change the learning spaces – careful thought is therefore needed on how the services are provided into the spaces.
  • New generations of students will be coming to colleges with well-developed web and digital skills and will also expect to use their own devices for learning. The pedagogy, the learning technology and the ICT infrastructure need to be able to cater for these expectations.
  • Most colleges currently provide their own network and web services. These are mainly hard-wired networks to desk-top computers. There is often a single point of failure in such services and they are rarely 24/7/365. Consideration for the future should be given to thin client solutions, flood wireless areas with netbook or hand-held device access and ‘cloud computing’ services, hosted as 24/7/365.

Next term Drew will be available for advisory visits on new builds and learning spaces – please contact your account manager to discuss this further. We are also planning a face-face event on this theme.

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