3 minute read

General summary:

The appeal of open source learning environments:

1. Physical open space

  • For example, the transparent fishbowls in the library increase visibility and create the illusion of more open space. This gives the opportunity for impromptu conversations and studying, which would otherwise be lost if all the walls were opaque.

2. Control over change

  • For example, the movable whiteboards in the library give students the freedom to change the space. If the whiteboards were nailed to the walls, they would be limited in where they could work. Limited space means limited learning

3. Opportunity for social interaction

  • The human mind is social, therefore learning is social. Informal and social environments give students the freedom to share what they want without fear of messing up.

Xavier University: Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Wanted to redesign their Learning Commons building in their quad, so they renovated the first floor of the library as an experiment to understand the needs of students
  • Three spaces:
    • Collaborative learning zone
    • Faculty development center
    • Integrated service desk
  • Used flexible furniture to allow for multiples uses at different points in the day, and monitored how the spaces were used in order to make improvements in the future
  • From this project the university learned that it is less important to design a perfect space than to provide areas for students to be creative and productive while allowing for flexibility and change

Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan

  • the “Connector”space being redesigned rests between two traditional classroom facilities
  • includes faculty from different disciplines to promote interactive relationships between the student and professor in an informal office and casual learning environment
  • Informal offices are set up with semi-opaque screens to increase visibility and to feel the presence of learning in another environment
  • space uses interior accessories and furniture to become a place where information and learning spills into
  • furniture used consist of Herman Miller furniture, free standing Bretford tables, Caper chairs, Celeste lounge seating, Screens from the resolve infrastructure.

Ohio State University

  • Created a Digital Union as a “low-risk trial and error experience with technology.” A place where students by appointment could use the latest and greatest technology without the high cost and risk.
  • However, since it was by appointment the Digital Union it was not a “planned space for unplanned learning.”
  • When opened to the whole campus, the space was used 250% more often. The popularity lead to adding two additional Digital Unions on campus.
  • Today, these spaces act as multipurpose study work areas with furniture that can be moved to fit the needs of individual students or groups.

Additional Case Study: 3M HQ by Hitoshi Abe

-See images at the very bottom

15 minute read

“Planned spaces for unplanned learning”:

Hallways, waiting areas, stairways; why is “the space between” so important in a learning environment? They are serendipitous spaces, where the delightfully unexpected can occur. It’s natural and easy for people to socialize, network, study, and learn in these spaces. The appeal of an open source learning environment can be broadly broken down into physical open space, control over change in the space, and opportunity for socialization. A tangible example of these qualities is the second floor of the library. Why do people want to meet on the second floor of the library to study? It’s not just because we can freely talk and sneeze without being shushed. The second floor fosters learning through open space with the transparent fishbowls, control over change with the mobile whiteboards, and social interaction through the lounge furniture and coffee shop.

Open space. Imagine if the fishbowls were opaque instead of glass. The students studying inside would have no interaction with the students walking by, and the opportunity for unplanned learning is gone. We wouldn’t have those instances where we see a familiar face through the glass and join in the conversation. These open spaces are free and informal. Why do we thrive in informal spaces versus formal ones? Why are the doodles we do on napkins 100 times better than the drawings we do in our pristine sketchbooks? Informality fosters creativity because we’re not afraid to mess up. The conversations we have with teachers and peers in the hallway give us the freedom to be uninhibited in what we share. The same freedom doesn’t exist in a lecture hall where you have one opportunity to say what you want, so it better be good.

Control over change. One of the best features of the second floor is the mobile whiteboards. Students that want to use the whiteboards can bring them to their table, as means to communicate their thoughts or to gain privacy from the rest of the floor. If the whiteboards were nailed to the walls, we would have to remain by those walls if we wanted to use them. If the space is limiting, then the learning will be limited.

Opportunity for socialization. On the second floor of the library, the space isn’t limited to desks and chairs. Couches, recliners, and bean bag chairs invite people to get their nose out of the textbook and verbally discuss the material. Renata Caine says the “human mind is social” and that “people change in response to engagement with each other”. Reading from a textbook can only do so much, and there is so much more to be learned from interaction with one another.

So how does technology tie into socialization and the “space between”? Think about the advantages of working on a mobile tablet versus being confined to a corner office with four walls. Having the freedom of a mobile device opens every opportunity for social interaction and our studio is a perfect example of this. When we want feedback from someone else, all we have to do is bring our laptop to their desk. Technology doesn’t confine us, nor does the space we work. An open learning environment improves the quality of our work and can enhance any educational space.

Xavier University’s ultimate goal was to redesign the Learning Commons building in their Hoff Academic Quad. They sought to test their ideas and goals in different spaces on the 1st floor of the McDonald Library. These included a collaborative learning zone, faculty development center, and integrated service desk. The collaborative learning zone was a very flexible space, with movable tables and chairs to suit the needs of students. It provided an array of furniture to allow for both group and individual work, along with allowing a variety of activities from collaboration to relaxation to occur. As quoted from the article on hermanmiller.com, “Students ‘own’ this space. It’s intuitive and mobile. How it looks at 4 p.m. will be different than what it looks like at 1 a.m.” Cotter continues: “We’re able to observe how it gets used. How is the furniture moved around? Which areas see more use? This feedback will inform the changes we make. If we approach this coherently, we’ll be rebuilding the commons every year.” Planning spaces for unplanned activities is becoming more common as a design method.

The faculty development center provided an area for professors from all different colleges and areas to get together in a more informal way. It included different sized tables for various conferences along with “soft seating” to provide a lounge space for faculty. The integrated service desk was a method of blending spaces and students; creating a space for both students and faculty to come to when in need of IT or research help. From this project the university learned that it is less important to design a perfect space than to provide areas for students to be creative and productive while allowing for flexibility and change.

At Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan the space being redesigned rests between two traditional classroom facilities and it is called the Connector. The space is 50 feet by 200 feet with 30 foot high ceilings. This space includes faculty from different disciplines to promote interactive relationships between the student and professor. Informal offices are set up with semi-opaque screens to increase visibility and to feel the presence of learning in another environment. Without moving walls, this space seeks to be an informal learning environment with interior accessories and furniture to become a place where information and learning spills into. Furniture used consist of Herman Miller furniture, free standing Bretford tables, Caper chairs, Celeste lounge seating, Screens from the resolve infrastructure.

The Ohio State University Digital Union was established in 2004 as a “low-risk, trial and error environment,” for students to gain experience with the latest and greatest digital technologies. When initially established, using the Digital Union required an appointment; therefore, anyone utilizing the space for academic or multimedia purposes would be asked to leave. However, this did not create a “planned space for unplanned learning,” more of a planned space for specifically regulated learning. Realizing the flaw, OSU opened the Digital Union to all students encouraging a stimulated and relaxed learning environment. To further encourage an environment for developing life long learning skills, the space was made highly interactive. Furnishing the space with Bretford tables and Caper and Mirra chairs, students can easily rearrange spaces to fit their specific needs, whether that be individual or group study. Since opening the Digital Union to all students it has become a hub of sharing and learning on the OSU campus; in 2007, visits to the Digital Union increases by 250%. To compensate for the growing demand they plan to expand the original 2000 square feet of Digital Union to 13,000 square feet. Today OSU has three Digital Union locations to aide students on their campus.

original article: http://www.hermanmiller.com/research/solution-essays/forming-places-that-form-ideas.html

additional images: http://www.americanlibrariesmagazine.org/photoessay/library-design-showcase-2012-collaborative-learning

Additional Case Study: 3M HQ Minnesota by Hitoshi Abe

caper chair

Caper Chair (above)

celeste lounge seating

Celeste Lounge Seating (above)

informal space for learning (below)

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resolve furniture 01resolve furniture 02

Herman Miller Office Screen Arrangements (above)

painted wall

image of how wall interacts with internal atmosphere (above)

interior 01 interior technology passing space cst  3M campus  8171 floor

3M HQ by Hitoshi Abe (above)

Ohio State University Digital Lab (below)

OSU digital union