When one asks the question, ‘Where does learning happen at UTS?’, thoughts turn immediately to lecture theatres and other structured formal spaces such as tutorial rooms and laboratories. While that is true, structured, formal spaces are only part of the story of where learning takes place.
Research tells us that learning happens everywhere at UTS – in campus cafes and eateries, on the lounges in public and not-so-public spaces, indeed in almost every corner, nook and cranny. Moreover, while many would say that learning is an individual pursuit, we know that students learn much from working in groups.
At UTS, we know that learning spaces shape learning and therefore, as educators, we must rethink and reshape our formal and informal learning spaces – which is exactly what we’ve been doing at UTS over recent months.
As part of the reshaping of learning spaces, we have sought student input. UTS regularly taps into student thinking and most students happily participate in our surveys, pleased that their views have been sought and keen to help UTS continuously improve on a range of fronts, including courses and services.
However, some students question whether their views really matter and whether participating is worth the effort. It absolutely is!
I can’t emphasise enough how valuable student feedback is to UTS, to existing and to future students. What we learn from student feedback informs a range of activities including how we design and deliver academic programs, the support services we offer and our physical infrastructure.
The recent reshaping of informal learning spaces evidences of the importance of student feedback. Those students who participated in the Library of the Futuresurvey informed us that they wanted more computers in the library, better wireless connectivity, and more spaces for group and/or private study.
UTS heard and acted on this feedback; a further 100 computers have been installed, the number of wireless study areas has increased, additional silent study rooms have been built, as have a further 10 group study rooms.
The space that student feedback built - building 2, level 4
Students also said they wanted to be able to eat and drink in the library, so since late last year UTS has been conducting a trial in most (but not all) areas of the library.
In another consultative process, groups of students submitted photos of what, in their view, were the best and worst formal and informal spaces on campus. As a direct result, two worst areas were renovated over the Christmas break to reflect the suggestions made by students – level 4 of building 2 and block D of building 5.
From the outside, the university’s built environment might be viewed by some as an eyesore – but then it’s what and who is inside that matters.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Teaching, Learning and Equity)
Photographer (S Alexander): Joanne Saad