New Learning Environments projects set to transform UNSW campus

2018 is shaping up to be an exciting year for UNSW, with a series of active learning space projects expected to be unveiled. These Learning Environments-led initiatives, which are currently in the concept design stage, are part of a $45 million investment allocated toward the ongoing transformation of the UNSW campus.  

The projects include a new precinct that will deliver active learning environments across the ground and first floors of the Quadrangle building and the first and second floors of the Business School. The precinct will include interactive spaces, which house educational technologies that flip the classroom and improve the teaching and learning process; and collaborative spaces, which facilitate group work through the provision of flexible furniture and whiteboard perimeters. 

A computer lab will be upgraded into an interactive learning space that incorporates pod-based furniture, screen sharing, and the use of cloud-based applications that will make lab teaching more engaging. 

‘Turn-and-learn’ lecture theatres, with customisable seating that allows students to engage in group discussions, are also on the cards, as is the rollout of more than 700 square metres of student-led spaces that will facilitate individual and group study and social interaction. 

“[This] redevelopment helps to give students compelling reasons for being on campus – not sitting passively in classes listening to an instructor, but actively to learn alongside peers,” says Mark Uncles, Deputy Dean (Education), UNSW Business School.

“With physical improvements, it will be easier for us to involve students in simulations and gamified experiences, to have them participate in case discussions and problem-solving exercises, and to encourage more interactive and collaborative activities. 

“Learning should be a participatory, joint endeavour, and we are looking forward to having additional spaces to achieve this goal.”

A proposal for the Tyree Energy Technologies Building (TETB) is also being considered, which will see two existing computer labs upgraded into interactive learning spaces. Configurable furniture pod-style seating and technological capabilities, such as screen sharing and access to cloud-based virtualising applications, will be installed, resulting in multi-purposes spaces that support laboratory teaching and other pedagogical approaches.

The ground and mezzanine floors of the Red Centre are also set to be re-imagined, resulting in a series of purpose-designed, student-led spaces. The revamp will include shared meeting rooms, collaborative study spaces and a dual-purpose exhibition space for events.

The proposals for all three projects were underpinned by broad consultation across UNSW. The Learning Environments team engaged with deans, associate deans, heads of schools, general managers, faculty facility managers, IT, Facilities Management unit, and students to get a sense of current and future learning and teaching needs.

The prevalence of student-led spaces throughout the new developments responds to existing feedback from students. A student survey, completed by more than 4000 UNSW students, as well as feedback from student societies at UNSW, identified an urgent need for more student-centric spaces that enable students to study and collaborate outside of formal class times.

“Given that university students spend ample time outside of the classroom learning and studying for their subjects, it's essential for UNSW to invest in student-led spaces,” says Tushaar Garg, a UNSW student and the Co-President of the UNSW Business Society.

“A campus with enriched student-led spaces definitely adds to campus life and the culture of UNSW; it allows many students to feel comfortable spending more time on campus, whether that be learning or socialising with friends or clubs & societies.”

If the business cases for these projects are successful, construction is due to be completed by the beginning of 2018.