Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Learning Commons at University of Manchester

Alan Gilbert Learning Commons at Manchester UniversityThe University of Manchester has produced a video fly-through of the soon to open Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (AGLC). Their learning commons looks much like those being built at universities around the world, but is relatively large, having 400 computers installed for students. The video is useful as it has captions to explain the different areas typical in a learning commons. The AGLC follows the current fashion of a glass box fitted out to look like an airport executive lounge: stone and wood finishes in the foyer, brightly colored soft furnishings, minimalist white benches with thin computer screens and tubular steel office chairs.

One way the AGLC differs from Australian practice is the use of security gates at the entrance. The video shows glass gates at the entrance, which presumably require the student to swipe their ID card to enter. The University of Technology Sydney require ID cards for entry to their city campus library, but at other universities I have only seen this feature used for after hours access.

There are also some sustainability features in the building: to reduce CO2 emissions, but these are not evident in the video: triple glazing, natural ventilation, heat recovery system, day lighting sensors, photovoltaic tiles and solar hot water.

ps: While the learning commons may seem a modern idea, in some ways it is like a library. Before the invention of the printing press, illuminated manuscripts were so valuable that they were chained to the desks in medieval libraries. The learning commons has rows of computers displaying illuminated eBooks, secured to the desk with steel cables. ;-)

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