Inhabiting informal learning spaces – Workplace Trends Learning Environments Conference London

Photo from presentation by Christine Kohlert, RBSGROUP EU – Potential informal learning space activities.

Acoustic Bulletin goes beyond just the acoustic presentation to bring you the broader issues at the recent the Design and Management of Learning Environments in London on May 17th

The programme and discussions during the day focused on the building design and spaces, how they are managed to optimize more effective learning and experience for students. The event was very much about sharing knowledge around research, case studies and driving for post occupancy evaluation and also networking for learning environments enthusiasts. Acoustic was only officially in one presentation, however it was interesting to hear acoustics come up in many presentations and in the Q&A sessions.

Programme of presentations above which often related to aspects about supporting student collaboration and engagement during informal learning around the whole campus to improve the learning outputs.

Sue Homes, AUDE & Oxford Brookes University, kicked off the presentations and pointed out that in “2025 80% of jobs don’t exist currently. Given our courses mostly have a vocational element at the end, it isn’t a good selling point to people at an open day to say they won’t necessarily have a job in 7 years time. Our education needs to be more skill based.”

Sue highlighted the need to know more about what makes a *blended Learning space” work.

Sue also stressed that “students need to think and challenge more” and they need a variety of social learning spaces which support “blended learning”. However, a recently built and state of the art looking library she visited was a shock as she “couldn’t hear herself think because the aircon was like a jet engine in an airport!”. She said there “too many unis with ‘blended learning spaces’ but blended learning isn’t necessarily happening there”…

In the following presentation Holly Sorce of King’s College London highlighted that their recently occupied new building which was originally open plan didn’t work. They had to focus on change management and shared occupany offices rather than the cellular offices the academic staff were used to and wanted.

Holly’s change management team were brought in to support people through the transition.

As Holly explained, the shared occupancy offices requirement ‘didn’t go down brilliantly’. Estates focus on technical matters, change management side making sure people would embrace the new spaces. This highlighted the need and importance of change management being involved throughout clarify and support the process, including following up with POE, implementing and supporting any necessary adjustments.

This was followed by Sinead O’Toole and Ian Ellison Sheffield Hallan University who presented a fresh workplace engagement toolkit which gathers feedback input from an early stage.

Two stakeholder stages “-1” & “0” were highlighted as key, before Stage “1”.

The above two pre-brief stages “-1” & “0” were highlighted as key, before Stage “1” covering the initial project brief. Here,stage “-1” developing the client’s strategic vision and goals including developing a Stakeholder Engagement Plan. Then stage “0”, the Strategic Definition, identifying the client’s Business Case and Strategic Brief. You can register your interest in this workplace engagement toolkit here:

In the final presentation before lunch, Christine Kohlert RBSGroup Munich, stressed the need for spaces supporting students in active groups, engaging in dialogue rather than passively occupying space.

Making and designing productive learning enviroments needs more thought around utilising library spaces better as above.
Informal learning spaces need to facilitiate different activities as above.

Acoustics came up as an issue where we need to balance quiet and collaborative spaces and most of these need to support good speech communication….

The first presentation after lunch by Oliver Heath of OH Design captured the audiences imagination around why we need to connect with nature more, both outdoors and the opportunities to bring nature Indoors to support better health and well being.

Oliver outlining the negative effects of nature deficit disorder on our well being.

Then Nigel Oseland of Workplace Unlimited and Colin Campbell of Saint-Gobain Ecophon for Sweden, jointly presented about the role of Psychoacoustics in the Design of Learning Environments.

The hypotheses which includes a literature review around open learning spaces, teacher personality and organisational factors.

Teaching and Learning activities which move from a traditional monologue to an interative dialogue have been found to give much deeper learning outcomes. The report mentioned below is from the ILETC Technical Report.

Shallow teaching approaches lose the opportunity to encourage more participation and engagement in the learning process.

Other important considerations for innovative learning environments (ILEs) or more open spaces to complement a good acoustic design are; the management including the culture of the organisation is key as is the zoning of the physical layout and the furniture layout.

A summary of additional considerations to a good acoustic design.

The psychoacoustic approach to Learning Environments will be avaialble in the near future contact Nigel here if you would like a copy.

POE from LSE informed about the importance of informal Learning spaces.

Ziona Strelitz of ZZA Responsive User Environments followed with an insightful presentation about the Post Occupancy Evaluation (POE) at London School of Economics (LSE) highlighting the vitality provided by informal Learning spaces.

Andrew makes a powerful case for libraries serving as the hub for Learning environments.


Tomorrows libraries are vital places to collaborate connect and learn.

Andrew Harrison, Professor of Practice at the University of Wales, finished the day with a rousing and passionate presentation making a compelling case for Learning Environments to be at the heart of future Learning Environments where they can be a catalyst for deeper learning connecting the digital, the local Community and also the future workplace with highly informed and specially educated librarians on hand to support.

More info about the excellent event in their comprehensive event blog here and more about Workplace Trends Conferences here 

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