I recently gave a tour of my university with a group of individuals who are thinking of using our facilities to host a conference. Although we are a small, urban university with few buildings, the construction of the facilities was done with an intentional design to make use of all available space and grow with students and faculty. One area that was built with space in mind was our campus library.
Our library is roughly the size of a hotel ballroom. One-third of the space is dedicated for books and materials, another third is for tables and meetings, and the final third is reserved for private study and meeting spaces. As our university grows and adds buildings, it is not likely that we will ever have a dedicated building that we will call “library”. The space was designed to be a digital learning space. The room is equipped with high capacity broadband wireless infrastructure with multiple charging stations and outlets for tablets and computers. The meetings spaces are equipped with flat-screen televisions to display presentations, watch online media, or for video chat sessions. Students use the space to access learning modules and course content online through various educational platforms.
Why was this done? Libraries are now online. Students conduct their research online, buy their books online or download them in digital format, and access course materials, syllabi, and learning modules for their courses online. Even most of our traditional “face-to-face” courses have some sort of digital formatting imbedded in the course.
Digital learning spaces are becoming topics of discussion for universities all over the world. As space for buildings or classrooms becomes scarce and expensive, universities have to use resources they have available to best accommodate student learning. In many cases, the best resource universities have is empty space that can be converted to digital learning environments equipped with personnel who can develop the technological capacity of the university student.
According to a recent Guardian article, only 65% of learners feel they have access to digital training and support when they need it. Students surveyed indicated they were most motivated to improve their digital skills when tutors inspired them with their own digital know-how.
To make use of these spaces, universities should invest in the human capital to support digital learning not only for their students but for professors as well. The availability of various learning platforms in the educational technology market is significant and their benefits can only be leveraged through high quality investment in training and support. Digital learning spaces can be used to allow students opportunities to explore their learning through digital platforms while participating in simulations, collaborative learning projects, and online research. These strategies can transform the way professors deliver their instruction while increasing student engagement and learning.
The digital shift can be a game-changer in university course instruction. This level of investment can be significant and few organizations are equipped with the right personnel to assisting with these transformative instructional solutions. Consider consulting with a professional who understands the broadband capacity necessary to establish digital learning spaces. Shifting to digital learning space can provide students with an opportunity to explore their own learning style while integrating the technology of digital natives.