This interdisciplinary project examines the interaction between physical learning spaces and the students that use those spaces. The project focus is on informal learning spaces across various learning settings. Research questions to be addressed include: What are the characteristics of informal learning spaces and what is good about them? How can the design of learning spaces facilitate active, social, and experiential learning?
An initial state-of-knowledge review will highlight current trends in the design of student spaces and on students’ preferences. As part of this, we will review existing efforts at ETH Zurich that target learning spaces for students, including Academic Services, LET, Real Estate, and Facilities management. From this, case studies will be selected for in-depth analysis, including stakeholder interviews and surveys, observations in various learning settings and large-scale data collection on space usage and learning outcomes. This will be complemented by a Virtual Reality simulation of design alternatives for a case study; the architects on the project team will elaborate or, in the case there are none available, develop design alternatives, and the cognitive scientists will run behavioural experiments testing the benefits of each design solution. We also propose to run Social Network studies based on tracking the movement and interactions of volunteer student and teacher participants, documenting learning opportunities and topical exchange.
The project has direct implications for how learning spaces are designed in the future: We plan to issue a set of guidelines for designing learning spaces for future generations of students. The potential impact of the project is large, especially given the existing discussions and initiatives on the subject matter at ETHZ. The project will also exploit synergies with other FLI projects, such as that on Medical Education and Embodied Learning.