Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Bill Ashby's pictures from UVA

Here are the pictures that Bill refers to.


  1. The lime green chairs are Knoll Generation. We had many samples delivered and students sat and rolled around in them. This chair was the hands-down winner. The chair back is made of a flexible plastic that twists and turns with your body. The chairs are made from about 45% recycled materials.

    We implemented a tiered technology strategy in the room. We aimed to create a space where students can bring what they carry in their pockets or backpacks (handheld devices, laptops, thumb drives) and easily put it all on display. You see booths with built-in monitors to share between 2-3 people. We have the very popular, counter height collaboration table (Steelcase) and and adjacent soft seating "presentation practice area" where you can share between 5-6 people, and then the workstation/lab area in the middle of the room where you can put your work on display for everyone. If you want to work by yourself, the laptop counter space is there. Students can also take control of three different audio zones to share their music.

    These resources are all self-monitored with no administrative rules limiting potential uses, we know that as administrators, we can't pre-determine or even imagine the ways in which students will learn to use the space and equipment, so it is completely self-governed. Students also have access to a cable TV signal that they can move around the room. We installed separate data and video-switching networks all integrated through the Crestron platform.

    It was very difficult to coordinator the efforts of the architects, electricians, and AV vendor. Even with a walk through with plans in hand during rough-in there were still a number of problems we had to correct along the way. I was personally in the space at least 3-4 a week during construction in an efforts to identify problems and we still didn't manage to catch them all.

  2. Dear Bill,

    This looks like a really nice facility, clearly a lot of thought has gone into it.

    I am really interested in the provision of music and how that is accessed and managed by the students? We have not provided any music in any of our facilities yet, partly because we are still concentrating on getting the facilities right (or as “right” as we can!) but also partly due to the fact that we have a huge problem here with students telling us that we don’t have enough quiet spaces for them to study in. They like the social learning suites, but for the individual student who wants to work on his/her own without actually being alone, they are far too noisy.

    I am also as a result interested in the provision of TV for the same reasons, is this for work or leisure? We have a number of TVs in our learning suites, but they only show 24 hour rolling news with subtitles.

    I completely agree with your last paragraph, I have been on site for our new facility almost every day and we are still identifying problems, I don’t know how we eliminate them entirely, but without constant attendance on site, there would be many more.

    We have just had the results of a student survey of learning spaces undertaken last term. The top 5 issues are:

    1. Not enough PCs
    2. Too many PCs being used for Facebook
    3. Not enough quiet study spaces
    4. Lecture Theatre Heating and Cooling problems
    5. Uncomfortable Lecture Theatre seating with writing benches too small/far away!

    So, still lots to do

    Best wishes


  3. Hi Toni...

    Our space was designed as a collaborative space intended for group work and public presentation, so it seems students arrive knowing it will usually be relatively noisy. There are locations all over the room where a laptop or handheld device can be connected to network and the content on these devices shared. The next step is to figure out how to do this all wirelessly so when you walk into the room it recognizes any device that walks in with you and asks if you want to engage.

    Its been interesting to watch the students negotiate their own norms and develop a culture for the space. I think this process is a significant part of empowering a user group to make a space their own and that as administrators we have a bias towards attempting to define the terms of use through policies and procedures. Finding the right balance in this respect is always a challenge. We're programmed to over-manage. Because I believe there is a tendency towards over-prescription I tend to push those I work with in the opposite direction..."what if we don't staff the room?" "what if we don't bolt everything down to the floor?" "what's the worst that could happen?" We start the conversation there instead of with our ingrained bias towards restrictions and limits.

    In this room, as I've seen with other spaces, in negotiating these terms of self-governance, the students have been very sensitive to others and very respectful of the equipment. If we are in the business of developing engaged leaders, we can't rob the students of this opportunity...these are important "out-of-classroom" lessons. When I visit the space I find it clean and most of time in my opinion too quiet...it's very interesting and counter-intutitve to some. Have others had similar experiences?

    I agree with the need to make sure we include "quiet space" in our inventories and that we can't misinterpret "quiet" to mean dull, boring, non-engaging...these concepts are not synonymous. Among student affairs professionals I think we are programmed to strive to create vibrant, engaging, community-building spaces and we tend to think this means loud, active, and (over) programmed...not always true.

    I began my career working in a campus recreation department and we were building a new state-of-the-art Recreation Center. I had a very wise mentor who constantly reminded us that in addition to all of the very active, programmed, scheduled spaces we were creating that we needed to remember to create great, engaging passive use spaces where people could reflect, meditate, and just pass time...that if it was holistic wellness that we were seeking to promote, it can't be achieved without time and space for personal reflection. I agree that in this day and age, where fast-paced lifestyles and information overload are norms, it's up to us to insure that we fight to keep quiet, reflection space readily available and encourage its use by making it inviting and comfortable.

  4. Hi Bill,

    I see, I understand your space much better now, thanks for that. Is there any possibility of having some photographs emails to me please?

    We created what we are calling an "Active LEarnig Classrtoom" a couple of years ogo, and although it has been a success in terms of use as a formal collaborative teaching and learning venue, when not in use it has been locked behind an access control system with axcess given only to staff. I am about to have the conversation with colleagues about what is the worst that can happen if we unlock the door and allow the students to use it. I'm tempted to think that now it has been in use for 4 terms, people's focus will be elsewhere and that they will be less concerned about perceived security issues. My own thoughts are that if the room is in constant use (as I think it will be as it offers the students so much that they do not have elsewhere)then the liklihood of theft and damage is greatly reduced.

    My experience over the last few years supports your comments, if we give the students something new which both supports and inspires them, they will care for it. We are about to refurbish 3 "Learning Suites" that we created 5 years ago. apart from the fact that the decor and carpets are looking shabby, the furniture and equipment is intact with no sign of damage or grafitti. As a result I am encouraged to look at more and new ways of upgrading thesae facilities to continue to provide them with what they need.

    Perhaps you would like to collaborate with me on these in view of your experience with your lovely space above?


  5. Toni
    Your list above could be from Aberystwyth.
    It is interesting that 1 and 2 in particular are regular complaints we have.
    1 is also interesting because some institutions are removing PCs or Macs becasue of the rise in mobile computing owned by students. This was the case at UVA if you remember where university provided computer provision was almost elimninated. Is this still the case Bill? We discussed this when we met at UCD and I seem to recall it was not a popular decision.
    What I am seeing at Aberystwyth is that students are using both thier mobile computing devices and the university provided ones at the same time. This of course feeds directly into the space design in terms of desk space and power.

  6. Our central ITC department has continued down this path. There aren't really any other spaces on campus where you'd find readily available MACs like we put in our new space, we are seeing a large amount of walk-in traffic for use of these computers...we decided to go against the grain in this respect and install the workstations and it has been informative to see the students response. This is a tricky question related to administrative efforts to influence student behavior/norms.


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