I collaborate, you collaborate, we all collaborate at U-Collaborate

A collaborative event to create a vision of the future of learning and teaching spaces at UNSW was at the forefront of a new project to reshape the UNSW campus.

Called U-Collaborate, this interactive, day-long event was run as part of the Learning Spaces Project sponsored by Professor Iain Martin, DVCA.  The event brought together a rich mix of over 130 participants – students, teachers, Heads of School, Associate Deans, educational designers and technologists, Faculty and University leadership, and service providers representing a wide range of academic and professional roles. The event was opened by Professors Ian Jacobs, Iain Martin and Mark Uncles.

The participants were asked to consider future learning spaces against the backdrop of University 2025 Strategy and a changing global education environment. 

"Across the higher education sector the way we think about learning and teaching is in flux, amounting to a radical transformation of the sector. Here at UNSW, we see these developments as invigorating and as offering opportunities to enhance the overall student experience" said Professor Uncles, Chair of the Learning Spaces Project Board. 

"U-Collaborate gave a cross-section of the UNSW community the chance to explore how these changes are unfolding, how they might impact learning styles and teaching methods, and what all this means for the development and management of our learning spaces in both the short and long-term."

The event started with an exercise to define the terminology that would be used throughout the day, ensuring that all participants were using the same language when talking learning spaces.  A series of small group ‘chatrooms’ followed, in which staff and student subject matter experts engaged participants in discussions on key questions relating to the development of learning environments. 

"Chatroom topics were carefully chosen to stimulate and challenge our thinking. Students told us about their vision for personalised experiences and how they might interact with each other and with instructors in the future. Staff exchanged ideas about the design of teaching and study spaces, how to achieve flexibility and agility with the planning of our spaces, and how best to leverage innovative technologies in the classroom," Uncles said. 

"We also discussed the servicing of physical spaces, with lively conversations around expectations, standards, delivery models and how we can remain nimble and responsive in the face of continual change."

Participants worked individually and in small groups to identify the opportunities and key initiatives for developing our learning spaces. Outputs from these exercises, including design principles; space, technology and support service requirements; and strategic changes required to current policies and practices in place at UNSW, will inform the development of a Learning Environments Strategy that will guide the provision and management of UNSW learning spaces and supporting services. 

Feedback was extremely positive, with one student saying "I am glad I got to be a part of this as one of your student representatives and to experience how learning space change takes place at UNSW. I would love to support further research on this." 

The Associate Dean, Digital and Innovation, said:

"It made me feel very positive about the next few years at UNSW. Personally I found it incredibly valuable to meet with others from different parts of the University and get an appreciation of what they do." 

The U-Collaborate event is a key plank of the Learning Spaces Project, which is focussed on educational strategy and student experience driven development of UNSW learning environments.  

"At the core of our Learning Environments Strategy is imaginative and forward thinking about why students come to campus. Our student-centred approach puts the spotlight on educational principles that refer to students actively exploring their field of study, that talk of participation and interaction to address big issues, that point to collaboration within and across disciplines," Professor Uncles said.

"We see the need for spaces to be flexible and configurable, to blend the formal with the informal, and to make full use of accessible and robust technologies."  

Chatroom topics

Dare to dream (Cath Ellis)

Learning space design – where is it heading and what does it mean for campus planning? (Jos Boys)

What’s the difference between learning and teaching in the online and physical environments, and what does it mean for our physical spaces? (Richard Buckland) 

Why will students continue to come to campus in the future? (Alex Steel) 

What’s changed in how students learn and interact and how can space be an enabler? (Alicia Hiew)

What’s changed in the relationship of students and teachers and how can space be an enabler? (Sigi Jottkandt) 

What might a personalised student experience look like in the future and what does that mean for our physical campus? (Sophie Johnston)

What does flexibility mean and what are the challenges? (Ross Harley)  

How do we leverage technology to innovate in ‘the classroom’? What technologies? (Nick Wailes, Stuart Freer) 

How do we facilitate students to be agile or mobile between disciplines and how can our learning spaces be an enabler? (Prudence Gibson)

UCollaborate - People


UCollaborate - Chatroom Graphics