Welcome to the 2012 CAUDIT Learning Spaces Tour which continues the momentum from the Melbourne and Brisbaine tour in 2011. This year's tour is in Sydney and will be looking at sites in the University of Western Sydney (UWS), University of Technology, Syndey (UTS) and the Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning (SCIL).

The aims of the tour

- Engage IT leaders in the area of good design for Learning and Teaching so they can appreciate and represent holistic design concepts in their own institutions;
- Explore identified exemplars in learning space designs and understand what facilitates good learning and teaching practice;
- Develop some basic best practice guidelines around technology integration to share with the wider CAUDIT membership;
- Develop the Community of Practice for Learning Space and Technology across Australia and New Zealand.

This blog publishes the findings of the tour along with comments from participants as the tour progresses. The blog posts from the 2011 tour are included along with photos and links from last year.

Sarah Chaloner, Tour Leader

0414 349334

Monday, 19 November 2012

Day 2 (20th Nov): University of Technology, Sydney (UTS)

Prof Shirley Alexander.  
DVC - Teaching, Learning and Equity
Linking Pedagogy, Technology and Spaces: Changing the way learning happens.

Shirley has an impressive biography including chairing the Data Intensive University Project and she is also on the Board of Trustees for the PowerHouse Museum.   She recently spoke at the CAUDIT Spring Meeting and arrived this morning after attending the Prime Minister's Teaching Awards event in Canberra where Dr James Arvanitakis of University of Western Sydney collected the award for University Teacher of the Year. 

UTS have embarked on an ambitious building program worth $1.2billion and includes impressive new learning buildings within their existing footprint. The new Dr Chau Chak building will be an extraordinary new building which will enhance the city in addition to the University.  

In her presentation, Shirley outlined the process that led to the design of new spaces at UTS which has also initiated an annual investment over the next 3 years into curriculum renewal to support good use of the new spaces.  Feedback from students, the profile of attendance and the changing nature of students who are increasingly working 4 or 5 days a week fed into the specifications of the new rooms we saw today.

Under Shirley's leadership a new team of stakeholders was  formed to include IT, AV, Capital Works and they have worked together to implement the new learning environments.  I think that the idea of askings the students to keep a video/photo diary was an excellent way to solicit feedback.  They were asked to take photos of the worst and best spaces and this informed the decisions to invest in specific spaces.

Students want
  • Good lighting
  • Proximity to food
  • Use of colour
  • Sense of order

Following Melbourne's example, UTS have clearly articulated their model of learning and have identified the links between curriculum renewal and technologies. Shirley's view is that any lecture that could be replaced by a podcast, should be. We should be making better use of the face to face time with students.
UTS are using tools to support their academic staff in their monitoring of the curriculum:-
  • REVIEW to help with assessment.
  • Self and Peer Assessment Resource Kit (SPARK)

The overall vision for UTS was to create a 'Sticky Campus' - where students feel they want to come to campus and then stay there.

It was evident from the tour this afternoon that this mission has been accomplished. We chatted to one of the many students we enountered in the new spaces who talked enthusiastically about the 'green room'. "I love it" he said and went on to explain how the 24/7 access has enabled students to use the space to prepare presentations in the early hours when they can't sleep.  

Lessons Learned So far
  • Cleaning and security bills have increased as a result of 24/7 demand for the spaces
  • Some operational processes were missed and are now in place (e.g. a mechanism to  report problems with the new spaces)
  • UTS took the decision to implement 'janitorial' services to put flexible furniture back where it is expected.

Mel Booth - University of Librarian
University Library of the future. - More than spaces and technology.

UTS are investing in an Automatic Storage Retrieval System (ASRS) and continue to use up to date RFID. Mel believes that Libraries need to become more proactive and take the lead in constantly testing and improving the User Experience (UX). He is asking difficult questions that need consideration as Libraries develop - do we need our own cataloging systems? What can be accomplished in the cloud through the use of shared services?

In addition to developing new spaces, UTS Library is also develop a new service model and a new organisation to move into the new space and deliver the new service model. UTS is driving forward with a new vision for the library with the provision of exciting technology - focussing on culture, knowledge and collaboration.

James Stewart - Property Management Office
Overview of the Masterplan
UTS recognises that the campus is part of the city and providing improved quality walking routes to areas of the city. James showed us the new student accommodation on the top floors with a great view of Sydney. These are rented out when out of session so provides an income stream. Having the student accommodation above the campus in this way further contributed to the sticky campus concept.

Chris Cahill explained that new service delivery models are being developed to support what is a very ambitious set of building projects which will double the number of technology enabled rooms. However IT Services are looking at efficiencies and automation because it is not feasable to double the staffing resources to support the operation.

Personal Reflections
  • Learning taking the lead. This morning, one of the tour participants shared his reflections on the UWS visit and particularly that learning is the driver for design at UWS and in the successful environments at other institutions explored in the 2011 tour.  Space design at UTS is clearly linked to the L&T principles - collaborative lecture theatres with high quality break out spaces are a theme at UTS, underpinned by bookable group study rooms that support self directed learning. It was good to see strong leadership from Shirley which was supported by all the other speakers from the tour.  At UWS, whilst we do not have quite the same budget, UWS and other Universities are implementing similar concepts - Learning Commons spaces and collaborative teaching rooms so there are some similarities which suggest that we are on the right track and can learn from the examples we saw today.
  • Bridges - Mel described Libaries as bridges and throughout the tour, we have talked about how important it is to bridge the gaps across silos, responsibilities and skills. I think this is true.  We need to develop  environments where we can experiment together and make sensible mistakes. This requires a culture where people will catch you when you fall. Shirley has made a concerted effort to build bridges with a team of people invested in learning spaces as have UWS with the Learning Space Core Group and it is clear from discussions with others on the tour, there is an intent to do the same in other institutions.
  • I really enjoyed the day, it has given me some things to think about and will feed into some of the work in progress at UWS. I feel fortunate that UTS is close by so I will be watching progress with interest and will look forward to closing the loop and visiting again when some of the projects come to fruition.

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