Evaluating the student and teacher experience of learning space at the University of Sydney

In 2013, the Senior Executive Group and the SEG(Finance and Infrastructure) approved the University Learning Space strategy. In order to implement the University’s broader strategy of engaged enquiry through integrated learning space, the University of Sydney is committed to evaluating and understanding the needs of students and teaching staff in the following areas;

  1. Sustainable innovation in integrated learning space
  2. Learning space standards
  3. Learning space inventory
  4. Learning space services and support
1. Sustainable innovation in integrated learning space:

WHAT: The integration of technology into the student experience has created serious management challenges in sustaining effective approaches to learning and teaching using technology. Sydney eLearning works with colleagues in faculties, the Institute for Teaching and Learning and the Learning Centres to evaluate the sustainability, effectiveness and quality of the student and teacher experience of its developing technology-mediated learning processes in both physical and virtual learning space.

HOW: Evaluation of sustainable innovation is achieved through strategic projects in the learning space program and through the eLearning helpdesk which reveal new ways of learning and teaching using the infrastructure from capital investment. These are collaborative projects which provide ideas for promulgation about sustainable and useful ways of supporting learning and teaching with technology.

KEY QUESTIONS: What is the purpose of the technology-mediated learning processes? How sustainable are the processes? What do students need to do? What does the teacher do? How does it relate to outcomes?

OUTCOMES: Case studies of effective practice across the University provide a useful way of promulgating sustainable innovation.


Case studies

2. Learning space standards:

WHAT: These are developed for both physical and virtual learning space in consultation with the University community and inform the University’s capital funding programs for both transformational projects and for the annual Learning Space Program. Sydney eLearning works closely with students and colleagues in faculties, University ICT and CIS in the development of these standards.

HOW: Learning space standards are subject to ongoing review and improvement from the perspective of sustainability, equity and the student and teaching staff. A working group of the University learning space committee reviews developments, particularly from our transformational projects and annual learning space program.

KEY QUESTIONS: What categories of learning and teaching space are demanded by students, teaching staff and faculties? What are the sustainability issues implicit in standards to effectively support innovation? What proportion of these categories can be effectively shared? What specialist requirements are there in learning space? How to University standards relate to international standards?

OUTCOMES: See current learning space standards here.

3. Learning space inventory:

WHAT: the size and shape of the University’s physical and virtual learning space is changing rapidly. For educational planning purposes, Sydney eLearning evaluates the size and shape of University learning space annually to assess;

  • Provision of physical and virtual learning space: how much, what type and where different categories of learning space are provided
  • Use of physical and virtual learning space: how much physical and virtual learning space is being used?
  • Flexibility of physical and virtual learning space: to what extent different designs of learning space suit variation across our sixteen faculties
  • Integration of physical and virtual learning space: what facilities in physical space enable a seamless transition back and forth with virtual learning space; and in virtual space, how integrated each of the enterprise eLearning systems are with each other

HOW: Physical learning space metrics are collected, analysed and disseminated in collaboration with the University timetable area, CIS and the CFO area as part of the annual space data audit process. This involves ongoing alignment of space and timetable databases. Virtual learning space metrics are collected analysed and disseminated in collaboration with University Planning and Information Office and ICT.

KEY QUESTIONS: What are the main drivers of integrated learning space? What is current demand and provision? How effective and efficient is use? How does the flexibility of space meet needs across sixteen faculties? To what extent is virtual learning space integrated with physical? How integrated is the provision of virtual learning space across half a dozen enterprise eLearning systems?

OUTCOMES: See example of learning space maps and metrics here

4. Learning space services and support:

WHAT: Effective provision of physical and virtual learning space is contingent on the services and support which accompany it. Sydney eLearning provides a variety of learning spaces services and support including the eLearning helpdesk, professional development support with ITL, quality assurance processes for websites each teaching period, a life cycle of unit of study website management including migration services, development sites, problem-resolution, testing, enrolling students, publishing for the teaching period, archival and retrieval services, and renewal of websites for the ensuing teaching period.

HOW: Sydney eLearning evaluates it services and support for physical and virtual learning space on an ongoing basis and uses the outcomes as a source of information for service and support improvement.

KEY QUESTIONS: What are the needs of students and teaching staff for effective and quality experiences of learning? What is the scope and timeliness of the support required? How satisfied are students and staff with learning space services and support? What new services and support are being demanded by students and staff? How can Sydney eLearning meet new demand in a sustainable manner?

1) for faculty specific outcomes, contact:
a) Sue Atkinson for the faculties of Arts & Social Sciences; Architecture, Design & Planning; Sydney College of the Arts; Education and Social Work; Sydney Law School; Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

b) Mary-Helen Ward mary-helen.ward@sydney.edu.au for the faculties of Agriculture and Environment, Science, Veterinary Science, Engineering and Information Technologies

c) Marianna Koulias for the faculties of Dentistry, Nursing and Midwifery, Pharmacy, Health Sciences and the Sydney Medical School

2) for professional development outcomes, contact Ricky Connor

3) for physical learning space management outcomes, contact Kathleen Donohoe

4) for overall Sydney eLearning operations outcomes: contact Colin Lowe