Sunday, 24 July 2011

Who is the learning space for anyway?

I attended a meeting last week to discuss furniture and layout requirements in 4 new learning spaces in a new building.
The first thing to say is that it is far too late in the project to be doing this and that consideration should have been given to this element of the learning spaces much earlier in the project and as part of an holistic approach.
Setting that aside a group of stakeholders will now attempt to come up with a brief to present to commercial companies for them to provide possible solutions.
Whilst in the meeting I was trying to determine who is the space is for anyway, hence the title of this post. The stakeholder groups represented were:
Students (It has occured to me that there are the current and the future students, their expectations may quite possibly be different considering changing trends and the introduction of fees. I fear they will not be passive consumers. Why should they?)
Time table office
Senior management
Technologists (AV\IT)
I have concluded that, in some way or another, the space is for all of the above and others not represented.
Given adequate time, the opinions and ideas of these groups could form the basis of the brief, and getting the brief correct is essential.
What became apparent early on in the meeting were the constraints the group had to take consideration off.
The main ones came as no surprise:
Capacity (of students)
I strongly believe that these constraints can be better managed.
Cost is the most tricky of these to resolve. The money allocated for the furniture is limited and we have to work to that budget. What could happen of course is that if the furniture had been considered earlier in the project it may have been more beneficial to divert money from other things to the furniture, of course there would have to have been debate and compromise over this but at least an holistic approach would have given better value for money over all in my opinion.

The capacity one should not be so hard to resolve. This can be done by deciding early on what sort of activities would take place in the spaces and apply a sensible area per student formula. The formula could be decided upon as a standard for each type of learning space i.e. traditional, reconfigurable etc.
However I urge caution here because there seems to be a tendency to give too little space and use the 'bums on seats' approach. I have mentioned this elsewhere in the blog.

The time constraint is needless. These matters should be considered at the start of the project.

So who is the space for, what do you think?

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