SIG Learning Spaces
SIG Learning Spaces – Co-Creation Community
The Learning Spaces Community is a forum for everyone with a passion for higher education (innovation) and a special interest in the (physical, digital and hybrid) learning environment at Utrecht University. We meet regularly to exchange experiences and discuss good practices related to the use and design of learning spaces, share research and innovations in the field, and to explore the broader learning environment at Utrecht University.
We welcome participation from all members of the Utrecht University community, including students, both academic and non-academic staff, faculty, administrators and policy makers, who are interested in the design and use of learning spaces. Meetings may include presentations by guest speakers, tours of innovative learning spaces, and brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas and solutions. The goal of the group is to promote co-creation, collaboration and communication across departments, programmes and disciplines, and to stimulate and advice on continuous improvement in the development and use of future-proof spaces for teaching and learning at Utrecht University.
Sign up for the SIG Learning Spaces here!
How would you prefer to teach? And what does the subsequent ideal learning space look like? This question was the focus of the meeting of the Co-Creation Community Learning Spaces
on December 9.
After an initial introduction, the teachers and students present got to work themselves. By sketching on whiteboards, they provided insight into how they experience the learning spaces within the UU and what limitations they encounter while teaching in these spaces.
Where one teacher feels restricted in his or her room to move around and make contact with students in the lecture hall, another teacher drew a U-shape in a workgroup room that does not offer enough room for group work. On the contrary, another expressed a need for a more circular theater setup and proper projection equipment to project art images.
Terms that reflected the limitations of current learning environments were: large physical distance between teacher-student, limited room for movement and flexibility, the space determines, insufficient opportunities for group work, inappropriate projection equipment, no cozy atmosphere.
In the next drawing assignment, participants depicted their dream image of the ideal learning space. From these sketches it became clear that connection, interaction between the teacher and students and among students, collaborative learning and flexibility are seen as the most important conditions for a successful learning environment.
After this pictorial exchange of current situations and dream images, some teachers shared their experiences of teaching in Future Learning Spaces. For example, Joséphine Daub taught her subject two blocks in the Hybrid Active Learning Classroom where the group tables with their own screen promote intrinsic motivation of the student. Jip Leenderts took advantage of the Learning Plaza where, with large groups, a mix of self-study, group work and short instructional moments can easily follow each other. And Julia Kasch talked about her experiences in the Virtual Classroom with alliance education.
An interactive and inspirational meeting like the one held on Dec. 9 contributes to learning from each other and thinking about how to improve learning environments at UU.
How do we move forward with this?
To properly address the needs of faculty, staff and students, we ask that you answer a few short questions here about the Co-Creation Community Learning Spaces.
Please mark the following dates in your calendar!
Wednesday, February 8: 12:00 - 13:30
Thursday, April 6: 12.00 - 13.30
Thursday, June 1: 12.00 - 13.30
Earlier this year, teachers, students and staff participated in the workshop ‘The future of the traditional lecture’ organized by the Co-Creation Community Learning Spaces.
In Theatron, the largest UU lecture hall, participants first were challenged to, literally, take a stand on some statements about traditional lectures. The stage was divided in 2 halves, one representing the side of ‘agree’, and the other of ‘disagree’.
Three controversial statements about traditional lectures were presented and participants were asked to signal their opinion by taking a position at the stage and invited to explain their position. In example, for the statement ‘The traditional lecture is an effective educational method’ participants mentioned that the traditional lecture can be an effective educational method, especially when the teacher knows how to lecture in an appealing way. At the same time, participants discussed that there are other methods that could be way more effective than the traditional lecture.
In the next part experienced lecturers Emanuel van Dongen and Tom Frijns examined the proposition from both sides.
Pitch Emanuel van Dongen; proponent of traditional lectures:
- During the pandemic it became clear that online education is not the best option
- Storytelling can be an effective way of teaching, inspiring, exciting
- Students can socialize and get to know each other, share ideas
- Far more happening than just a flow of information
- Introduction to material
- Place to ask questions to teachers/peers
- Having a nice time together
- Lecture as a theatre = fun, it’s a kind of magic
- Lectures make it easier to understand the topic
- The problem is not the lecture itself, but the way lecturers make use of it
- Lectures could be redesigned by students to enhance student learning substantially
- Little attention span can be integrated in the way lectures are build up
- Lectures can take students through an intellectual journey
Pitch Tom Frijns; opponent of traditional lectures:
- Not opposed to lectures but to ‘traditional’ lectures
- Lecture halls with rows are designed for one way flow of information and that’s suboptimal
- Collaboration is less facilitated in a traditional lecture hall
- As teachers we should never accept the status quo but look beyond and try to make things better
- We are too depended on the quality of the professors
- Lectures have an overload of information that students can’t process
- Waste of time and energy with increased trend
- Professors knowledge is more in life experiences, not to tell something out of books
It was interesting to see the differences in the way both lecturers gave their pitches. Emanuel was lecturing, standing behind the desk, based on a prepared story on paper. Tom walked as close as he could at the stage towards the audience, moved around to look into the eyes of different persons, used his hands and body while talking, without the use of notes.
What was special about this part of the meeting was the deepening of the theses through the different insights the participants brought with them. Both speakers agreed that a lecture can have its uses. However it depends on with what kind of learning activity (or learning space) you compare a traditional lecture to whether the speakers stated to be proponent or opponent. Emanuel compared the traditional lecture with online education and argued why he especially thought traditional lectures on location are better. For presenting a legal case, for example, it can be very useful, but elaborating on it is less so. Tom stated that comparing a traditional lecture with other possible teaching methods/learning activities he mostly prefers other learning activities because students than can participate in a more active way and interact more easily with the teacher and with other students. And that the traditional lecture halls limit the possibilities of more active participation of student and interaction.
What is considered indispensable for a meaningful lecture is the active participation of students in their learning process. It became clear that the one-sided flow of information (from the teacher to the student) is not benefitting any of those involved.
Thus, after the pitches, all participants went into groups to brainstorm how a traditional lecture can be made more (inter)active. Some ideas that where shared after this brainstorm: use quizzes and polls, give assignments and ask questions, use a ‘catch box microphone’ to give students a voice that can be heard by everyone in de room.
The next assignment was: ‘Imagine this lecture hall 10 years from now, in 2032. Assuming it will be used for education, in what way will it be used?’. For the second proposition, the co-creation element was brought back by the community. There were scintillating conversations about the future of the Theatron lecture hall and, in particular, how the spatial layout could change for the better. A lot of ideas arose for example installing microphones at each table, having moveable tables for group work, VR equipment that can fall down from the ceiling or redesigning the whole lecture room to make it more inclusive.
In the end, a plenary discussion was held and it became apparent that some participants could be moved to reconsider their initial point of view through the exchange, the pitches, and the discussions. In conclusion, it can be said that there was a vibrant exchange, lively interest, and a respectful discussion on this highly topical and important subject.
During the Strengthen-Your-Education-Week of the CAT, the SIG Co-Creation Community Learning Spaces provided a workshop on outdoor (educational) activities. A group of teachers, students and staff participated actively under the trees on the campus square of the International Campus.
In a 'brain dump', participants first wrote down as many reasons as possible for outdoor education on post-its. Then the participants clustered these reasons into overarching themes:
- Good for your health, both physically and mentally (fresh air, exercise, activating, resilience)
- Stimulates creativity, inspires, provides new ideas
- Flexibility, variation, something different
- Integration of education into the environment, contact with the environment/others (addressing people)
- Stimulates conversation, team building
- More room for certain work forms
- Fun, relaxing
- No hierarchy between teacher and students (because of fixed arrangement of space), informal
- Forced to use analogue work forms, without AV
- Prevents shortage of teaching spaces
The next task was to make the step from all these positive reasons to actually teaching (or another activity) outside. To do this, participants first thought about the specific occasion they would like to organise outdoors in the coming year. Then, in pairs, they discussed the minimum requirements and what they could organise themselves to achieve this. The results were shared and developed even further through feedback. Some examples that were mentioned are:
- Counselling during a walk through a nature reserve
- History tour through the city about remnants of slavery past
- Team building activity
- Guided tour on the USP
- Fieldwork behaviour for Psychology course
- Sharing the experience of outdoor workshop for teachers
During this meeting, it became clear that the minimum equipment requested for outdoor education was very limited. A roof, so that a planned meeting can take place even if it rains, was the only thing some participants indicated as a 'must'. Future Learning Spaces will use this input to investigate what possibilities there are for this.