Over Spring Break, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) completely renovated the computer lab in Trustee Hall 109. This renovation gives students a fresh, modern, multifunctional space on campus to study or work, using either university-provided desktops or personal laptops and devices.
Why the Change?
Informal learning spaces include anywhere students may engage in learning activities outside the classroom, including campus computer labs. The literature on informal learning spaces reveals pedagogical, psychological, and social importance of these spaces due to their potential to impact student learning. Space design can affect students’ mindset as they engage in learning tasks; encourage creativity, communication, and collaboration; bolster feelings of community and belonging; and even contribute to a sense of institutional respect for students and their learning (Brown, 2005; Oblinger, 2006; Riddle & Souter, 2012; Sidler, 2015). In Spring 2017, the Office of Information Technology (OIT) conducted an assessment of informal learning spaces across the SEU campus and identified a need for updated, redesigned facilities for our students.
What Did Students Want?
We began by asking students what would make campus computer labs better, gathering anonymous responses on whiteboards. In addition to resource-based requests (staples, printer support, computer speed upgrades), there were also several comments about how the comfort and aesthetics of the labs could be improved. Students requested more comfortable furniture and aesthetic improvements, such as more prominent use of color.
In a second round of feedback-gathering, we presented students with images that represented trends in informal learning spaces and ideas for enhancements that could be made to our own campus spaces. Students voted by placing stickers on the images showing spaces where they would like to study or work on class assignments. The results of this effort highlighted a desire for semi-private spaces (where students could work alone or in small groups with dividers between themselves and others), a mix of structured and casual workspaces, writable surfaces, standing options, and colorful environments.
What Changes Did OIT Make?
The renovation of Trustee Hall 109 took into consideration student feedback, learning spaces literature and trends, as well as data on usage of the computer lab over the last several semesters. Through this project, OIT was able to provide students with a modern new learning environment that includes:
- new, updated computers (summer 2017);
- all new furniture;
- multi-functional space, so students can work at a lab computer or from their own device;
- comfortable lounge seats with space to work and easy access to outlets to plug in phones and laptops;
- glass whiteboards for ideating or working out problems;
- fresh paint, including an accent wall to bring more color to the space.
We hope this new space will support our students in their academic endeavors by giving them a thoughtfully designed, vibrant place to work. To inform future learning space projects, OIT will be collecting data on student satisfaction with the redesign and comparing use of the space pre- and post-renovation.
Brown, M. (2005). Learning spaces. In D.G. Oblinger & J.L Oblinger (Eds.), Educating the net generation (pp. 12.1-22). Educause.
Oblinger, D.G. (2006). Space as a change agent. In D.G. Oblinger (Ed.), Learning Spaces (pp. 1.1-4). Educause.
Riddle, M., & Souter, K. (2012). Designing informal learning spaces using student perspectives. Journal of Learning Spaces, 1(2).
Sidler, Elizabeth D. (2015). Ideal learning spaces: The student perspective. Retrieved April 24, 2017, from University of North Texas Digital Library: digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc801917/