25 September 2019 - How do snakes and ladders help us think about student learning spaces?

EUNIS 2019


This is one of a series of articles written after the EUNIS 2019 conference, which Sam Harrow attended through the ucisa bursary scheme.

In my short HE career to date, I've had very little to do with learning spaces, and even less to do with the science and theory behind what works and what doesn’t. Learning space was another of the key focuses of EUNIS19, and I found myself really interested in the range of spaces available to students at NTNU, and what other universities are doing to ensure their physical space matches their expectations around teaching and learning. Naturally, technology plays a significant enabling role.

A number of the sessions I attended during the conference took place in a collaborative lecture theatre ("R2"):

Image of Sam Harrow's tweet and colour diagram showing lecture theatre layout and equipment highlighting the facilities for teaching and learning

Students sit at tables of 6-8, each with a screen and associated cables, whiteboard, speaker, microphone and a control panel. The theatre still has a podium and screens at the front, with the intention that a lecturer can introduce a topic and allow groups to then work on a problem, have a group discussion or carry out some other collaborative activity. Groups are then able to present back by virtually raising their hand, turning on their microphone, and sharing their laptop display on the big screen, and there is a central camera which turns to focus on the table to enable lecture capture to function. NTNU have written about the space (in Norwegian, but Google Translate does a good job).

One of the collaborative sessions held in this space was a play through of snakes and ladders. ucisa, SCHOMS (Standing Conference for Heads of Media Services), and AUDE (Association of University Directors of Estates) have together produced a UK HE Learning Space Toolkit (available at https://www.ucisa.ac.uk/learningspace) to serve as a practical guide and source of inspiration:

Colour image of the snakes and ladders game from the UK HE Learning Space Toolkit

Later in the conference Alejandro Armellini, Dean of Learning and Teaching at University of Northampton, presented a keynote on how “Active Blended Learning” is the new normal for them. Their new Waterside campus, which opened in September 2018, has no lecture theatres or staff offices (!) - and aims to be a major catalyst for change. Of particular interest, was his take on what "Education 4.0" might look like: you can see a diagram in the tweet below.

Fellow EUNIS19 attendee and Head of Educational Technology at City University, Julie Voce, has written a blog covering a range of sessions and spaces I didn't attend or see which is well worth a read.

Finally, for further information on the topic, it is worth reading what Jisc have previously shared about the move towards Education 4.0 from the perspective of a number of member institutions.