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TRANSCRIPT: Tales4Teaching ep. 75 – Reshaping learning spaces for the future

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Intro: Welcome to Tales4Teaching, a podcast where we explore stories with purpose in higher education. We will share expert insights, engaging interviews, and thought-provoking discussions that will inspire your teaching.

JOAN: Hello and welcome, everyone. Today, I’m absolutely delighted to welcome my wonderful colleague here today, Amanda Edgar, to talk to us and share her experience about her work that she’s doing on shaping learning spaces in higher education here at Deakin. Hello, Amanda, and welcome.

AMANDA: Hi, Joan. Excited to be here today. Thanks for having me.

JOAN: Oh, I’m glad you said that. I’m really excited for you to be here. So to get started, can you just tell us a bit about yourself and the project that you’re working on in relation to learning spaces here at Deakin?

AMANDA: Absolutely. So the Learning Spaces project, it’s an ongoing project that we’ve had for many years here at Deakin and it’s all about continuing to develop learning spaces for the future needs of students and have a think about what they need in the future, but also what they need now. And it’s a really important time to be talking about learning spaces because we’re coming back from the pandemic and finding our feet and learning what we need to do for the future for these future students and how they like to study and what’s going to support them best.

JOAN: We’ve been working on these spaces and you mentioned how important the spaces are at the moment. Why is it so important at this point in time?

AMANDA: And that’s really good. And let’s just talk about spaces to start with. And when we think of learning spaces, it’s not just the physical campus space that we think of. We’re thinking of the digital as well and how they combine. And what’s really important is we now have a group of students coming together that have probably done most of their study online and getting them to learn how to interact in the classroom, how to interact with the educators and do that in an active and collaborative way, because that’s how we see the future of teaching and using those spaces at Deakin. So it’s working with the academics as well and that learning process, but also working with Student Services about communicating to students where these spaces are and what they do and creating these social hubs for students to come to, to form those crucial networks that they establish during study. That’s one of the things that we found post-pandemic is really valuable for these students, is having that place to settle in and form a community. And they don’t have to be a large campus community. These buildings have their little communities altogether as well. And the students up, these important networks, they’ve done surveys looking at how students are enjoying those informal learning spaces. And students have said, you know, that’s where I made my first friend at the University, which is so sweet to hear, but that’s how important these learning spaces are. And when we walk through the corridors and we see students studying or preparing for their upcoming classes or just doing group work or studying by themselves, it’s really enlightening to see, and it fills your heart with joy to know that the spaces are enriching their lives for their future. So that’s what we’re looking at at the moment for learning spaces as well as a lot of other things to follow the decor and design principles. But recognising that it’s not just in the classroom, in the physical classroom that needs to be focused on, but the whole learning journey and how we make that an individualised experience, but also a collaborative experience.

JOAN: I love how much joy you speak, how you speak about the learning spaces and the joy you get. And I get the same joy when you see people on campus or in a space, whatever that space looks like and how people are interacting, which is lovely to see. You mentioned around the physical and virtual space and really around the capability building and reimagining the ways we interact with students. And I’m thinking like a lecture hall. It’s a particular way you walk into a room and it can be easy to assume the purpose of what’s going to happen. Perhaps if you’re a lecture hall, someone is talking to you. To overhaul the physical space would be a mammoth job, not to mention a costly one. What’s taken strategy in building that capability and rethinking how rooms traditionally were used? How do you work with educators to reimagine that space and think about, okay, well, that’s that’s one space. How can you work with technology and how can you bring in that active and collaborative learning that you spoke about?

AMANDA: Absolutely. And so we do have lecture hosts still on campus and we do call our classes. And for 2024, we’re starting to call some of the learning activities lectures. But we do recognise as a change in that description that the interactive lectures like what you’re saying during in a way to do that can be with supporting technology through that experience too. So the digital tools that are on our digital tools guide online on DTeach as well. But there’s other things that are bespoke to the authentic context of the courses as well that teachers might be using. So they could be portfolio tools or they could just be active discussions within the classroom that people start to use. So there’s training sessions that the Learning Space Project offers as well before the trimester starts. And we do that in the classroom. But also this year with this trimester for T3, we’re starting to do some online sessions as well. For those people that really want to get a deeper understanding and how they can use the digital. But digital tools in the classroom too. And that’s important because like you’re saying, our buildings are buildings that have been there for many years. Some of them and some of them are designed for the way we used to teach, which was the lecture out the front with a PowerPoint presentation. You know, that educational banking context where we just speak and the student absorbs and banks that information. But we’ve moved past that and we started to do that pre-pandemic with that giving collaborative learning. So how do we use those learning spaces that were designed for that sage on a stage type of performance is very much how we integrate the digital tools and rethink how we move through the classroom. But our future plans and future designs for these rooms, lectures halls, in that way, how it’s framed, they don’t really feature because we know that to support the students for their best educational experience, that type of performance delivery isn’t really what they need. So our spaces really reflect that for our future design.

JOAN: We’re definitely moving away from the sage on the stage and even in a virtual a sense in just presenting through a PowerPoint. And one of the things is around looking at the dynamics within the physical and virtual space. How, how did the work at Deakin to facilitate active and collaborative learning, essentially?

JOAN: Yeah, that’s great, Joan. And so some of our learning activities that are held in the learning spaces do attempt to do a hybrid delivery as well. So we’ve got some great audio and visual equipment that’s supported by the AVN team and that allows you to connect online and on campus as well. But doing that is really important to make sure that the online students feel supported and engaged. And so there’s quite a knack to it. And so we do have the opportunity for educators to come to us and talk about it as well as the Learning Design Team at Deakin Learning Futures about how to support that online and on-campus environment. But other ways that educators can connect virtually and physically on the campus are using those digital tools as well. Mentimeter is fantastic. That’s what I used to use when I was in the classroom teaching. I loved it and the students loved it, but also making sure that we’re not just standing up there doing a PowerPoint and talking to slides, but we’re doing activities with the students while they’re in the room as well, whether it be group work, whether it’s a flipped classroom. And there’s some great examples of how to do that as well if anyone’s interested in connecting and finding out more. But these are ways that we can really enrich that learning experience to shuffle it from the educator, projecting knowledge to creating that knowledge, co-creating that knowledge together with the student, it is an enrichment of the actual experience itself.

JOAN: And I think it’s that from a teaching experience and a learner experience, often we say the learner experience as the end user, but we also have the teachers as well that are going through the transformative process and have gone along a journey. But it’s still a lot of… there’s still different components of that that they have to learn and learn to facilitate with. So the acknowledgement of the different tools that people can use in that space, but there is definitely a knack to it, as you mentioned earlier.

AMANDA: Absolutely. And I mean, it’s how we were able to pulse check where the students are at is, well, it informs this. Okay. Maybe that… maybe when I taught that, it didn’t actually come across the way I intended. So I’ll put it into next week’s activity two, or perhaps that’s a good quiz question to highlight to people that concept is important to understand.

JOAN: So there’s a lot of opportunities in the learning spaces, especially with the digital realm. And you touched on that just around pulse checks alone. Is there any other opportunities that you see around the learning spaces you’ve mentioned? Learning spaces go beyond walls, you know, it’s beyond that physical space. What other opportunities do you see where Daken is going for that future state?

AMANDA: I mean, the whole reason that students are here is to prepare for their future professional lives. So it’s putting them into context in ways that are hopefully authentic to make them realise what they’re learning can be used to solve a problem in the future and the learning spaces frame that, whether it’s the physical space or the digital space that they’re using while they’re in that learning space, but also how it’s taught and contextualise it as well. And that’s important. Those experiences are so important doing that with their peers, but doing it as an individual as well to understand where they need to be. And so we see it and we feel that it’s also about what does the graduate need, what do they need to look towards becoming a graduate, and how do we get that feeling, that transition of preparing them for that future professional lives in those spaces? So some of the spaces are discipline specific for that reason when they need to be, but we also need to make sure the spaces are flexible so that we can timetable them for different cohorts. So it’s also finding a balance about what those spaces need. So we have some quite unique and bespoke spaces across the University, like the trading centre at the Burwood campus. You know, it’s great to walk around the University and say these spaces it’s quite exciting. But the moot court at the law school and then we’ve got the law clinic at the Waterfront Campus, which is great because we actually see those live interactions coming through where they actually get to meet clients. And there’s one up at downtown too. And then optometry has their optometry clinic where patients book in and students can see patients. That’s the area that students can play it assessments to show that have met that level of clinical skills abilities. So our campus is yeah, they’re really rich, they’re really diverse and that’s what is exciting that attracts students to come to Deakin.

JOAN: It’s great to think that it’s for future professional lives and it’s just not again, going back to that current state what it’s like now. What is it going to look like in the future? And I wonder how much your experience being in the classroom not so long ago has really informed the work, the wonderful work that you’re actually doing in this space? AMNDA: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, being in the classroom and being able to reflect on that as we design future spaces has been a really useful background to bring into this role, understanding what the challenges are and what the opportunities are in the different areas, and also knowing that it’s really important for us to have a close relationship with the teaching teams when thinking about and designing these spaces because so that we can support what their current and future ambitions are to teaching in those spaces. And, you know, I mean, we’re working on the GIFT Campus now and that’s another exciting opportunity, but also a different type of challenge to work towards. But it’s going to bring great things for Deakin and great things for other students internationally as well.

JOAN: There’s so many opportunities with the different learning spaces and looking into the future and exciting to hear about it. It sounds great. What are the challenges that you’re faced with? Learning spaces?

AMANDA: I suppose. You know, the biggest challenge is always the challenges. They’re having to put it in a budget as well. I mean, I want to do everything, you know, you want to do it, everyone wants to. And so thinking about, you know, you have to put your investment hat on and think about what’s the return on investment here. If we do if we do this because we have to balance a lot of people’s requests that come through about their learning spaces. And some of them are wild and wonderful ideas, but we just can’t say that that’s kind of, you know, so majority or yeah, or anything like that, but still keep them on the list for the one day when we might have that endless fountain of gold coins and go, okay, But that’s probably… it’s a challenge, but it’s a necessary challenge because it makes us sure about what they are and what we do and think about it deeply before we make solid plans about, you know, building things or designing things.

JOAN: And that’s great to hear, especially that consultation around the teaching and learning teams although you’ve been in it recently is actually expanding that breadth of experience and consulting across across the different faculties. I can imagine some of the ideas would be wonderful. But again, looking at that investment side, what is that? Return on investment can be a challenge, but a necessary and necessary challenge, as you mentioned.

AMANDA: and we’re really excited to be getting some student voices in as well. We have student as partners coming along, which is going to be great to hear from the students directly. But we’ve also, like I said, got good connections with Student Services, that are reaching out to their groups of students to give us some feedback as well.

JOAN: So a lot happening in the learning spaces and I know it’s happening across the different institutions. Again, it’s not just the physical, it’s around the virtual space as well. So what does that actually look like? So yeah, to summarise, have you got any guidance or tips and tricks for other institutions that are doing the same thing around learning spaces? Is there anything you’d like to share?

AMANDA: I think when you said one of the challenges is… and we keep talking about technology and you know, we love technology in the digital lane, hey, we love new tech, edtech. It’s great, but we need to think about the pedagogy that goes with it. And we can’t just do the tech because it’s cool, particularly when it comes to innovations, because that’s when innovations don’t don’t launch off. They don’t make it past the innovation stage into business as usual. So when we get excited about technology, think about the real reason why and the theory behind it that’s going to support it moving forward and get that buy in from academic staff,

JOAN: I imagine that’s a lot easier now post-pandemic than it was pre-pandemic. But reasoning as to the why and answering the why you’re actually using it is critical in any technology is a great insight there. So thank you for sharing. Amanda. I think going back to that learner experience and we talk about the experience a lot, there’s different components that actually go into that versus just the one one size fits all. So yeah, a lot a lot of work to be done, but a lot of work has been done and continues to evolve. And looking at the future state, which is very exciting. So with that, I’d love to say thank you, Amanda. I really enjoyed this conversation and hearing about the learning spaces work that’s happening at Deakin. So thank you.

AMANDA: Thanks for having me.

9 October 2023

Last modified: 20 November 2023 at 10:01 am

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