Learning and Teaching Investment Fund 2012

Summary of projects

Project title

Evaluating the Impact of Learning Spaces on the Student Learning Experience: Providing Evidence to Guide Design, Investment and Professional Development

Project leaders

  • Dr Anthony Bedford

Project team

  • Dr Julie Roberts
  • Jaclyn Yap

Project summary

This LTIF project set out to capture students’ opinions of the changing learning spaces at RMIT. This project aimed to investigate student attitudes towards, perceptions of, and reactions to, specific new RMIT learning spaces, and provide a foundational knowledge of student requirements for learning and study spaces.

The project quickly became known as the Rate Your Space project, with a campaign encompassing posters plastered all around Melbourne, Brunswick and Bundoora campuses, and e-publicity asking students to take photos of their favourite learning space. This was the first phase of the project, with the researchers aiming to determine the types of spaces students feel represents their best learning space.

Analysis of the photographs yielded a balanced (and rather inconclusive) outcome. A sample of 39 was recorded as part of the Rate Your Space competition. With a mixture of photographs from outdoors and indoors external to RMIT, it was difficult to determine any conclusive trends. Spaces were classified by categories, including Public, Private, Shared, Personal, Purpose Built, Adapted, Institutional or Commercial, Domestic, Enclosed, Open, Controlled Noise, Ambient Noise, Individualised and Non-Individualised. Notably, 60.5% were classified as private, and 63.2% as personal spaces. The highest agreement was for purpose-built spaces, with 68.4% fitting this category. Notably, shared, adapted and institutional spaces yielded the lowest agreement – an indication that students had a preference for private and personal study that was not on campus.

We aimed to discover students’ motivations for their choices about where and when they study outside of formal classes, and why they respond positively or negatively to specific modes of learning spaces. Furthermore, we aimed to see how we can make the campus more ‘sticky’; that is, to connect students to the physical campus more compellingly and support students in utilising their time on RMIT campuses to effectively support learning. Of the spaces the students did photograph, many included nature/outdoor settings where open space was prevalent.

Given this initial feedback, the second phase was implemented: the learning spaces survey. This looked at the students’ preferred learning spaces and their aversion to others, their rationale behind these preferences, and specific aesthetic, functional or technological elements of the learning spaces they deem to enhance their learning. The survey created yielded 312 responses, from a variety of cohorts, in the aim of matching responses in later surveys in 2014 to see if a preference for a certain space was apparent. Furthermore, courses surveyed were chosen specifically due to their delivery in either a new learning space, a future transition into a learning space, or a traditional learning space with no future transition planned.

This stage of the study continues in 2014, as the initial aim is for the cohorts to experience both new and existing spaces and become accustom to the environments.

We will have created a repository of visual data (photographs); subjective responses (focus group and survey responses); and numerical metrics that will provide a firm foundation upon which to base future decisions regarding learning space design and investment

At the conclusion of this project in 2014, we will have measured and quantified the impact of specific new learning spaces on students’ actual learning experiences, as well as more general information about their learning space preferences. Essentially, we will have comprehensive, multi-faceted evidence from which to potentially base future investment and infrastructure decisions, and a reputation for valuing students that sets us apart from other universities.

Download Report [PDF, 2.1MB]