Social learning spaces for every student

How higher education institutions can turn our digitally connected world to their advantage

Technology is driving change, but we’re still social creatures. The two can work together to create a completely new way to communicate – social networking and always-on conversations have become second nature, especially to today’s students.

In higher education, the social learning space draws on this nature. Collaboration, creativity and discussion are championed. These spaces exist all around the campus, and beyond it, too. More than 50% of higher education student learning takes place outside the traditional learning space*. These spaces not only satisfy students, but support a progressive image for the institution. By providing spaces to suit a range of learning styles, institutions can maximise their appeal and build a competitive edge.

To encourage social learning, higher education technology needs to go beyond the provision of traditional teaching facilities to deliver experiences that inspire individual students to develop social and digital skills. Interacting with both technology and people can have a huge impact on students’ attainment through increased engagement during the course of learning. Importantly, it can also provide them with solid foundations for the future, particularly when entering the workforce.

Dedicated spaces already exist – and structural changes are not necessary. Therefore, there is a real opportunity for higher education institutions to move beyond one-way dialogue and allow their physical learning spaces to take on a more flexible form.

If you would like to create your own highly effective social learning spaces, you need AV technology that inspires smaller workgroups, allows them to create and share a variety of content no matter their device, and supports collaboration and discovery with external organisations and other universities.

As a starting point, consider the following for your social learning spaces:

Human centric

Learning environments should be designed around the way students want to learn – and we all do that differently. Give them options: make it simple to connect any device, display content clearly and get them hands on with touchscreen annotation and feedback. This will allow spaces to be more interactive and group-led, while encouraging students to evaluate information, think critically, make informed decisions and discuss them together.

Informal hubs

We have social brains. With more opportunities for informal communication and collaboration, students become more confident in their ability to learn, interact and share. Invite students to utilise communal spaces beyond the classroom to develop their debating, reasoning and presentation skills. All they’ll need is a quick and simple way to connect and share their own materials to a group.

Group versus independent learning

With students having different learning preferences, there will always be those whose learning is more individual. Capturing lectures and making them available online not only provides students wishing to work more collaboratively with discussion materials, but it also supports the more independent student to revisit content alone outside the classroom. With useful tools such as in-built polls and question functions, they can still interact with the materials and benefit from their peers at distance.

Active learning within moderation

It’s important that lecturers continue to provide structure and guidance around self-discovery spaces with the ability to act as moderators. To do this, they require the ability to review workgroup progress on their own display and allow students to share centrally their findings to a wider audience. Sony’s Vision Exchange connects student groups to a centralised hub in formal and informal working situations, streamlining group projects and helping educators stay on top of multiple work groups learning at one time.

Find out more about Vision Exchange at pro.sony/active-learning

* College: The Undergraduate Experience in America by Ernest L. Boyer