Supporting students and staff to embrace new learning spaces
On 2 March 2022, The Guild’s seminar series on education continued with a fourth virtual event, hosted by the University of Glasgow. The key question discussed during the debate was how universities can design learning spaces that enhance active learning.
Bringing together over 80 participants, the seminar provided an in-depth view on the University of Glasgow’s experience in designing the James McCune Smith Learning Hub, a state-of-the-art learning and teaching facility, as part of their commitment to the new Learning & Teaching Strategy.
“Designing the Learning Hub provided us, not just an opportunity to reshape our existing campus, but to rethink how we can genuinely transform our teaching, learning and student experience, as well as how our staff is engaged with the campus," Nicola Cameron, Director of Property Development and Investment, said.
While part of the design process was to ensure that the new Learning Hub accommodates the needs for new ways of learning by providing different digital and social learning environments, Moira Fischbacher-Smith, Vice-Principal for Learning and Teaching, explained that it was important as well to ensure consistency and coherence across the campus. “With standardising some of the technologies from Wi-Fi connection to AV equipment in teaching lecterns, we could enable teachers and students to work in a similar manner across different buildings,” Dave Anderson, Director Business Relationship Management and Engagement, told.
During the first panel, the speakers emphasised the importance of encouraging students to take ownership of the new spaces. Lauren McDougall, Student Experience & Partnership Lead - Learning and Communities, and Liam Brady, Student Engagement Officer, noted that to enable this, students were included in the process from the start. Particular focus was put on ensuring the space is inclusive for everyone. “It was crucial not to single out anyone. This was reflected in many practical elements, from lecture room furniture to all gender bathrooms," Nicole Kipar, Deputy Director Academic and Digital Development, explained.
The second part of the seminar zoomed in on supporting active learning, and how to enable students and academic staff to adapt to the changes, with Scott Ramsay, Effective Learning Advisor, presenting how good practices were collected and disseminated at the university and Karen Lee, Director of Strategy, Performance and Transformation, providing insights on how the use of the Learning Hub spaces was managed among teachers.
“We aimed for transformation, not just translation, meaning that we aimed for people to not just translate existing teaching methods to the new environment, but to think how the space can facilitate new exciting forms of learning and teaching,” Vicki Dale, Senior Academic and Digital Development Adviser, told, adding that pedagogical and audiovisual support were key to allow academic staff to expand teaching methods and feel comfortable in the new spaces.
Sharing examples of how to engage students with new learning practices, Andrew Struan, Writing and Study Skills Coordinator, highlighted the need for versatile tools and to acknowledge the particular needs of international students and students following multiple disciplines: “The core idea was that these changes are not just happening to students, but instead we enable them to understand what the changes are, why they are happening, and how the students are active collaborators in this whole process.”