Disrupting the learning landscape

Coventry University has opened a learning lab specifically designed to encourage new teaching and learning practices

Coventry University’s Disruptive Media Learning Lab (DMLL) has officially opened.

Amongst the speakers attending the launch event were Graham Brown-Martin, founder of the global think-tank Learning Without Frontiers (LWF) and Dr Cristobal Cobo from the Oxford Internet Institute. They were joined over the two days by educators, technologists and creatives to share ideas about the future of learning. Exhibitions of current DMLL projects and demonstrations of new and emerging educational resources and technologies also formed part of the opening. The launch of DMLL coincided with Open Education Week 2015, a five-day initiative to promote the global open education movement which, in its turn, promotes the free and open sharing of learning resources.

The new learning lab derives its name from the business concept of ‘disruptive technologies’, technologies which gave new and emerging companies the opportunity to disrupt established markets by creating new versions of the products offered by large corporations which, they felt, no longer responded to shifting consumer demand. Academics at Coventry University have suggested that, in a rapidly changing world of connected mobile devices and globally networked people, universities will also need to disrupt existing notions of teaching and learning so that new practices can emerge. Shaun Hides, co-director of the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, explains: “In an increasingly connected world, academics are no longer the sole source or foundation of higher-level knowledge so universities need to respond to this new reality. With our lab we are trying to explore a new learning landscape, where experimentation, collaboration and openness are at its heart and where there is a willingness to embrace the instruments of disruptive media, including mobile devices, open source software and collaborative web tools.

 “We are advocating some radical alterations to existing education practice, but at the heart of our approach is a desire to ensure that our students are properly equipped to study topics that are rapidly changing and evolving. By widening the sources and types of knowledge from which students can draw, we’re also better preparing them for the types of working environments that they will encounter across the globe.”

The new learning lab has been designed with this experimental ethos in mind. Moving away from the static desk and raked lecture theatre setting, the lab includes a learning zone in the shape of an indoor “hill”, composed of a series of map-like contours extruding upwards. The lab also houses a u-shaped stepped seating area covered in synthetic grass, a large open-access space, an adaptable teaching room and three themed creative project labs.

Shaun continues: “We wanted an environment that makes you engage differently as soon as you walk in and we think we have achieved that. As soon as you enter the lab, you can immediately see that something is different. It’s a world away from a traditional learning space, but it’s been designed in a way that will encourage academics, researchers, learning technologists and of course our students to challenge their expectations and to work together and openly share ideas.”

W: www.coventry.ac.uk