Blog

Space for Learning

Mar 05 2014

“Since education is the core mission of higher education, learning and the space in which it takes place are of the utmost importance.” - Malcolm Brown, Educause Review, 40 (4), page 30, 2005

When we talk about “learning spaces,” what’s the first thing you think of?

Many people might say “a state of the art classroom.” I’d like to suggest that there are multiple types of learning spaces, and the quality of those spaces can directly impact the teaching and learning that can occur there. Learning spaces encompass the full range of places in which learning occurs, from real to virtual, from classroom to online. Here, we will look at three types of learning spaces.

Physical space includes the size and shape of the room, the arrangement of furniture, the quality of the lighting, and the classroom technology. When teaching in a new classroom, ask yourself how flexible the space is. Are there tables that accommodate more than one student, or are there individual desks? If the latter, are the desks movable, or are they arranged in front-facing rows and bolted to the floor? Do all students have a clear view of the screen and/or board? Can students work in small groups, or is the room designed for lecture?

Virtual space has taken its place alongside the physical space with the recent developments of technology. Virtual spaces range from distance learning classrooms, where class sessions physically meet and interact virtually, to fully online environments including asynchronous interactions in Blackboard or on discussion forums, to real time interactions using Zoom or classroom response systems.

Social space is defined by the students’ backgrounds, their interactions with each other and with you, either in-person or online, the collaborative work entailed by the course, and the intellectual and emotional mindsets that the students bring to the course. The social space is also defined by course learning goals, course content, and the instructor’s teaching style.

Virtual and social spaces are taking their place alongside the physical classroom as a locus for learning. As a result, we are compelled to expand our concept of where and how learning occurs. And what happens if you don’t have an “optimal” learning space? What if your classroom is small, or poorly lit? What if the students in a blended course don’t engage in the online component? What if the students don’t seem interested in working with each other?

One of our jobs as educators is to help our students make the best possible use of those spaces. To that end, I’d like to invite you to join your colleagues in a discussion about learning spaces. The Center for Teaching and Learning is offering an online workshop about learning spaces, beginning on March 24 and continuing, via email, for the next two weeks. Some of our NYIT faculty and staff will be joining in as ‘resource people’ and discussion facilitators providing their expertise and insight. Specific topics will include:

  • physical spaces: intentionally created spaces and unintentionally created spaces
  • virtual spaces: technologically enhanced, blended, fully online
  • social (intellectual and emotional) spaces
  • additional resources

The workshop is asynchronous, meaning that you can read the materials and reply to emails at your convenience. All you will need is a web browser and an email account. Here’s how it will work: On March 24, resources will become available on the web. Participants will then have a conversation by email for 1–2 weeks. Our goal is to bring faculty together from all our campuses, so we can explore the topic from all the cultural and societal frames of reference that comprise NYIT.

Please register to receive the link to materials and to be added to the email list. The registration link for the workshop is at: http://goo.gl/Xt8BpT

I hope you will join us!

Author: francine_glazer