The University of Malaya being the renown university in Malaysia and well known internationally is striving for improvement in the quality of teaching and learning. With the implemention of Malaysian Qualification Framework (MQF) that requires Outcome-based Education system to be employed, the traditional teaching and learning practice must also transform from teacher-centred to student-centred. High impact teaching and learning practices like case-based, problem-based, project-based, intergrated design and many others demands normal classroom setting to be changed from the traditional to a learning space that can cater for LEARNING TO OCCUR.
In line with the above intention, University of Malaya is continuously making a serious effort in providing teaching and learning space conducive for student-centred learning / high impact teaching and learning practices of takes place. The Management committee has agreed that all faculties / centres/ academy must comply to learning space (student-centred) criteria for any renovation work since 2012. The management commitment on this matter was further reinforced with the renovation of classroom into ‘TheCUBE’ project in 2012 in several faculties. Acknowledging that faculty members need to be made aware on the potential use of the CUBE in improving students learning and lecturers teaching quality, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Office has decided to initiate another initiative focusing on the effective use of the existing CUBEs or other learning spaces for its intended purposes.
References on Learning Space Concept / Criteria
What is Learning Space
“We spend a lot of time trying to change people. The thing to do is to change the environment and people will change themselves.”
Les Watson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Glasgow Caledonian University
Classrooms are learning space, libraries are learning space, common areas within a university campus has the potential to be part of the learning space.
There is a big body of knowledge in the effects of classroom design and environment towards student learning. Generally, design of a good learning space affects student motivation and promote learning as an activity, supports collaborative learning, provides a mixture of personalised and inclusive environment, and be flexible to support reconfiguration in real-time and future-proof.
Learning spaces are divided into several categories.
- Formal learning space
These are the classrooms, interactive classrooms, laboratories, seminar rooms, tutorial rooms and lecture theaters.
- Informal learning space
Informal learning space can range from student lounges, libraries, faculty lobby, common rooms, cafeterias and other area adjacent to the formal learning spaces.
- Virtual learning space
The LMS (SPeCTRUM), other online resources (e.g. Google docs, Office 365, Khan Academy, MOOC etc) and social networking space where students collaborate are classed as virtual learning space.
The demand for ROI in the capital expenditure for public buildings suggests that any investment in the learning space should support all the above mentioned goals and at the same time be creative and enterprising to inspire both learners and teachers.
Learning Space Principles
The design and development of a good learning space should adhere to several key principles. Answering to the objectives of any one of the listed principle will guide and influence how the space will be designed. The designer will need to understand and reflect on how these principles affect their spaces.
- Learning First
- Flexible spaces to encourage innovation
- Support for collaborative work practices
- Facilitate capture for archive and reflection
Criteria for Learning Space to support collaborative learning/flipped classroom
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Anon
Future learning space design should cater to the change in learning for the 21st century. There are a multitude of new technology and novel pedagogical approaches that was non-existent just a few years ago. The internet, readily available learning resources online, mobile devices, smartboards, LMS, MOOCs and social networking, coupled with fast wired and wireless broadband connections is changing the experience and expectation of learners.
The prevailing teaching space design has been teacher focussed. The one-way facing rooms where the lecturer stands in-front and learners faces the lecturer. Technology exist as a way to enhance this but the potential to change the dynamic of the classroom to take into account collaborative learning and flipped classroom have never realised.
“We need to start, then, by asking not ‘what buildings do we want?’ but instead ‘what sort of education do we want to see in future?’.
We need to ask not ‘how many classrooms do we need?’ but ‘what sorts of learning relationships do we want to foster? What competencies do we want learners to develop? What tools and resources are available to us to support learning?’” Rudd et al 2006
There are several space types that can be chosen for formal and informal learning spaces. A concise reference to this together with working examples and pictures can be found in this LINK. These are among others:-
- Group study
- Media production
- Branstorming Space
- Learning commons
- Research commons
- Connective Space
The criteria for new Learning Space development in UM or any university should be centred around maximising the potential of using these spaces to support collaborative/interactive learning and flipped classroom.
Key stakeholder engagement is vital during the planning of the project. These are the owners, users (both learners and educators), instructional designers, educational expert, design professionals, facility managers and other relevant parties.
The room for learning space must be well lit (minimum 500 lux) and equipped with dimmer switches for projection screen if installed. There were too many instances when the projector set-up and design was done as an afterthought after the building is finished, under a separate furniture and technology contract. In fact, for a learning space, all the elements within the space should be designed together so that the stated principles mentioned above may be achieved.
Room temperature must be controllable between 20° – 26° celsius during operational hours.
Passive acoustic measures are designed to provide comfortable listening environment even when no audio amplification technology is used. Audio technology is used and designed only when there is a clear use for it based on the curriculum or pedagogical model that is intended for the space.
The wired or wireless broadband connection must cover all users with enough connection speed for all users simultaneous usage. The network should be able to support streaming of HD videos.
Wireless access points must be enough to cater for simultaneous access for all room occupants. Upscaling capability for the network to support higher broadband capability and telepresence in the future should be considered.
Majority of tables/desks must be reconfigurable and easily moveable by a single person. Stackable furniture design is encouraged to facilitate storage and rooms reconfiguration. Integration of the furniture with power points location should also be considered.
Power points must be provided to cater for at least 30% of the room occupants, apart from the power for all electrical equipments to be used and installed in the room during formal learning sessions.
Monitors and projection devices
Connection to projection devices should be wireless ready, accessible via the local wireless connection or bluetooth.
Access to the learning spaces must be promoted and granted to all authorised student of the faculty outside of formal learning session. Online booking for the rooms must be initiated and the use of the rooms logged and reported to the faculty management.
- Space division
- The learning space must be demonstrated to be able to be subdivided into several areas to support different pedagogical approach. As an example, this may be achieved with the use of panels, different colour carpeting or using the furnitures available in the learning space.
- Informal social interaction
- The use of the learning space outside of formal learning hours should be allowed. Otherwise a learning commons that is situated near the formal learning spaces may be designed in unison.
- Demonstration area
- Demonstration area allows a demonstrator to showcase their learning objects or for the learners to showcase their learning attainment. Subject to different disciplinary area, different design for affordance of technology for the demonstration area should be considered.
- Control console
- All technology used in the room should be user friendly. User guides for equipment must be displayed at all times within the room. Preferably, computing and audio visual equipment must be controlled from a single central console within the rooms.
- Design partner and technology partner engagement
- As universities sometimes are resource limited, third party technology partner can be attracted to contribute to equip the spaces with required furniture or necessary equipment.
Role of Academic PTj’s
“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
The academic PTj’s should empower their academic staff to explore the usage potential for the learning space for innovative learning approaches and educational and action research. They should also explore the potential for these spaces to support faculty community building and sustainable practices.
The bidders should incorporate and demonstrate sustainable energy usage into the room design and should aim for national or international sustainability certification.
Barrett, P., Davies, F., Zhang, Y., & Barrett, L. (2015). The impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning: Final results of a holistic, multi-level analysis. Building and Environment, 89, 118-133. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2015.02.013
Committee, J. I. S. (2006). Designing spaces for effective learning: A guide to 21st century learning space design. Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of JISC.
Rudd T, Gifford C, Morrison J and Facer K (2006) What if…Re-imagining learning spaces. Futurelab: www2.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publicationsreports-articles/opening-education-reports/Opening-Education-Report128
World Economic Forum, 2016, January. The future of jobs: Employment, skills and workforce strategy for the fourth industrial revolution. In Global Challenge Insight Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva.