Tuesday, 8 October 2013

A Busy Summer of Learning Space Refurbishments at Aberystwyth University.

This summer I have been refurbishing 41 teaching spaces of various sizes from capacities of 12 to 200+.
 I have also converted spaces previously used as offices and a computer workshop to a post graduate centre.  
The usual issues of attempting to maintain capacities whilst attempting to enable different teaching methods arose but with some common sense, compromise and new designs I managed to achieve most of the objective.
I used three types of layouts:
1) Rectangular tables of various sizes.
2) Reuleaux Triangle
3) A system I call 'Turn and Learn' which is a 350mm x 2000mm rectangular desk with 3 swivel seats that allow the 3 students to turn to a desk behind 800mm x 2000mm so that a group of 6 can be formed. I also used 3 different heights in one room to build in a rake on a flat floor.
I used (experimented) with different colour schemes which have been well received, something I was a little worried about as colours are so subjective.
I decided to install height adjustable task seats in all locations and the students have given good feedback on these. These address the range of shapes and sizes of students we have to cater for and a change to the hard, fixed height seats we installed in the past.
I installed dimmable lighting in all rooms which has pre-sets that are selected depending on what is happening in the room i.e. projection, group work, cleaning etc. but can also be overridden from the lectern which is using an Extron control system.
The technology installed consists of a height adjustable lectern, interactive screen on the lectern, voice amplification programme amplification, single and dual projection (depending on room layout and size) screens which can also be written on with dry marker pens, a document camera and web cam. This technology has helped me enhance the lecture capture system we use (Panopto) and it seems to have increased use amongst lecturers. I have also installed Ampetronic induction loops in all rooms for the benefit of the hearing impaired.
I have had very good feedback with some negative comments but that is always the way. For example I was stopped by one lecturer who complained that a room he was time tabled into was not suitable for group learning, no more than ten minutes later I was topped by another lecturer who complained about a room that was not laid out for 'traditional' lecture delivery. This just proves the point that pleasing everyone all the time is not possible and that time tabling needs to take account of the type of room a lecturer requires, of course the trick is providing enough of each type of room with adequate capacity. The 'Turn and Learn' help alleviate this problem.
I will post again when I have conducted some focus group reviews.


  1. Great to see so much effort to improve campus classrooms. Nigel you have done a major job to transform the facilities for students and academics and this will definitely be a positive influence on their experience. Also great to see you openly discuss the complexity of such projects, which does often include compromise as conflicting interests and realities compete during the life of a project. Well done.


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