Designing for learning spaces

In September we were lucky enough to have Matthew Riddle from La Trobe university come and give us a talk. His abstract stated the following:

The role of the university campus is changing in subtle and important ways. Today, student ‘timescapes’ typically involve moving between places to work, study, sleep, eat, and play, and the boundaries between these places are now less distinct as wireless networks, laptops, smart phones, and iPads afford greater flexibility and mobility. Yet learning spaces are still being designed with traditional ‘chalk and talk’ modes in mind — arguably to the detriment of learning outcomes. This workshop uses findings and methods from the Spaces for Knowledge Generation project, funded by the Australian Teaching and Learning Council, to provide novel ways to inform learning space design with student perspectives. It will give you an opportunity to apply some of these techniques to the design of learning spaces within your own institution. Teaching staff and administrators who have involvement or interest in the design and planning of learning spaces will benefit from this workshop.

In particular, Matt described the designing for learning spaces project he was involved with, along with Mike Keppell, Kay Scouter and others. The Spaces for Knowledge Generation (SKG) project,[1] aimed to inform, guide and support sustainable development of learning and teaching spaces and practices. The final report is now available online,[2] and a book related to this work is now out (Keppell, Souter et al. 2011). The project team undertook an extensive world tour of some innovative learning places and explored what new forms of learning spaces might be needed to effectively use new technologies in a blended learning context.


The project developed seven principles for designing learning spaces:

·        Comfort – a space that creates a physical and mental sense of east and well-being.

·        Aesthetics – pleasure that includes the recognition of symmetry, harmony, simplicity and fitness for purpose.

·        Flow – the state of mind felt by a learner when totally involved in the learning experience.

·        Equity – consideration of the needs of cultural and physical differences.

·        Blending – a mixture of technological and face-to-face pedagogical resources.

·        Affordances – the ‘action possibilities’ the learning environment provides the users, including such things as kitchens, natural light, wifi, private spaces, writing surfaces, sofas, etc.

·        Repurposing – the potential for multiple uses.

Interestingly, they also drew on the Cave, Mountain Top, Campfire and watering hole metaphor I described in an earlier blog. The site has lots of good resources and tips for designing effectively learning spaces, which make good use of technologies, well worth a look.

A few other related links of interest:





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