In my new role of Learning Spaces lead for the LDC, my first task was to join members of the properties and facilities department on a visit last week to Loughborough University to take a look first hand at their innovative lecture spaces. The estates department is currently redeveloping the City University campus, and a big challenge is building lecture spaces that will still be relevant in five to ten years time. The LDC has teamed up with estates, properties and facilities, the architects, and IS in order to explore the possibilities for large group lecture theatres suitable for active learning.
Traditionally designed lecture spaces, while great for didactic teaching styles (someone at the front of the room doing all the talking), they are not easily adapted for group work or activities. The aim at City is to build lecture theatres that are both suitable for more traditional styles, but are also flexible and can enable and encourage group work and activity.
So why Loughborough you might ask? The design school at Loughborough have created a 147 seat raked lecture theatre made up of sofas with coffee tables, suitable for group work which sounded like it might be exactly the type of solution we are looking for. On our visit we were lucky enough to see this space in action and to speak to students after.
I was really impressed by the space, the sofas were of mixed sizes (4,5 and 6 people), and while it was obvious that it would work well for small group work and discussion, all seats had a clear line of sight to the front of the room and could easily view the projector. The acoustics, lighting and room temperature were really well managed, and the students we spoke too really liked the room. They also said they found it comfortable for long lectures. The timetabling department at Lougborough confirmed that this room is requested far more than it is possible to schedule it, and we had trouble scheduling a time when we could go and take a look – definitely a good sign!
Aside from the sofa lecture theatre, which was a clear hit with students and staff, the design school itself was housed in a really impressive building, it was a space that students clearly enjoyed spending time with a lot of light and independent study spaces built into the design, however the element I liked most was the way in which the walls were all portfolios for their students work, displaying student’s projects and CV’s on the walls, it made me think about how we could incorporate this into our designs for City.