Friday, January 28, 2011

Teaching and Learning Commons at University of Canberra

The Recent Changes Camp 2011: Canberra is taking place in the Teaching and Learning Commons at University of Canberra. This is a newly opened facility in Building One of the university, just above the refurbished refectory.

The learning space is a mezzanine, allowing the students to look down at what is happening in the refectory. A walkway and bridge allow access to rooms placed around the periphery of the building. The floor is divided into sections, each for a different style of learning with a different level of formality. At one end the "Teaching Commons" has has a glass wall with its own doorways, an open area, with a kitchen and the several breakout rooms. This allows a class to have an area to themselves and then to use several breakout rooms.

What also makes the space interesting is that the University of Canberra Teaching and Learning Centre is co-located in the space. In a way the physical space is a physical manifestation of the style of education being advocated. As commented on at the event I am attending, the walls of the rooms become covered with cooperatively written notes and are a sort of whiteboard wiki.

Some areas are equipped with desktop computers. The room the event I am at is using is called "The HotHouse" this is about 8 x 12 metres. All the walls are painted with gloss white whiteboard paint (IdeaPaint brand), allowing all the walls to be written on. There is a short throw Epson projector fixed to the ceiling projecting a 2 metre picture on one wall. The projected image is good, dispute the gloss of the walls. One problem was that there are spotlights on the ceiling pointed at the walls which create glare from the shiny walls.

There is glass in all rooms, allowing someone in a room to see out into the open area and see in. This makes the floor feel large and open. Considerable care has been taken with the design of the space. One small detail is that luminous contrast strips are installed on the stairs. Some of the smaller rooms are around the outside of the building, most windows are covered with blinds to block light to allow use of video projectors. This removes views of the outside. However these rooms have been palced on the sides of the building which do not have good views.

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