Aside from an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes (and now front-of-scenes) work in preparation for the launch of VU Collaborate, the Blended Learning Team has also been working with Facilities and ITS on plans to improve VU’s learning spaces.
The first step was carried out at the end of 2012, when we came together to write an “issues paper” to provide recommendations to the University about its formal learning spaces. This paper was based on information from focus groups with staff and students arranged by Facilities in 2010/2011, as well as the direct and anecdotal experiences of Facilities and ITS. The idea of this paper was to provide very high level guidance to the University of what needs to be fixed with VU’s formal learning spaces, and obtain support in order to do so.
The internal paper was endorsed by the Blended Learning Steering Committee (Anne Jones, Peter Creamer, Margaret Mazzolini) in February 2013 and by the Senior Leadership Team in May 2013. We have been working towards improving these high level issues ever since.
The SLT endorsed internal paper is available on Sharepoint (you may have to login with your normal credentials) at:
In summary, the recommendations are:
Recommendation 1. Establish a specific set of learning space types for VU and develop appropriate standards for these spaces. Standards should incorporate what AV equipment and IT infrastructure is available, colour palette and the style of furniture for each type of space.
Recommendation 2. Develop a proposal and seek funding for a rollout plan that would have all learning spaces at VU upgraded to a minimum standard of basic audio-visual equipment by the end of 2016.
Recommendation 3. All learning spaces (with the exception of those with specialist equipment or that need additional control due to safety/privacy) to be owned and managed/timetabled centrally to ensure they are utilised efficiently and are included in regular maintenance and upgrade cycles.
Recommendation 4. Establish regular pro-active AV and Facilities maintenance inspections of all learning spaces such that issues can be resolved before teaching periods begin.
Recommendation 5. Review current support arrangements for learning spaces to ensure they meet the needs of learning and teaching and enable appropriate in-class response times and resolution times for reported AV and Facilities issues. Investigate the compulsory professional development of all teaching staff in the utilisation of the technologies and the spaces themselves to enhance student learning (e.g. through SPDP).
Recommendation 6. Introduce a timetable policy that sets standards around core-teaching hours that results in the most efficient use of learning spaces, reduces the overbooking of rooms, and where requests for specific times, days, rooms are submitted, these must be signed off at a high level (e.g. DVC A&S or delegate).
Recommendation 7. Establish periodic review and evaluation of VU’s learning spaces – where possible by incorporating into existing evaluation processes, and ensure that specific evaluation resourcing is built into the funding for any future learning spaces initiatives.
Recommendation 8. Establish a Learning Spaces section within the Learning and Teaching portal that houses self-help resources on how to use classroom technologies, ideas for how to use the spaces and technologies for enhancing student learning and information on professionaldevelopment opportunities.
Recommendation 9. Establish a consistent nomenclature for learning spaces at VU that is practical and focused on learning rather than technology
If you have any questions about the report, please contact Lisa Germany.
Dr Lisa Germany
Associate Director Blended Learning
Centre for Collaborative Learning and Teaching